Road warriors: Video games between autonomous cars take shape

18 Nov 2019

Image: © Tierney/

Passengers in the autonomous cars of the future could one day play a series of video games with each other.

If autonomous cars are to ever become the norm, there will many passengers with free time on their hands. Now, researchers from the University of Waterloo have designed three games that could be played between passengers in cars near each other on the road.

Revealed as part of a study presented at a recent conference, the games are designed for cars with Level 3 autonomy or higher. Unlike the Level 2 autonomy of Tesla’s Autopilot – which requires the driver to keep their focus on the road even when the car is driving itself – Level 3 cars require almost no attention on the part of the driver.

“As autonomous vehicles start to replace conventional vehicles, occupants will have much more free time than they used to,” said Matthew Lakier, a PhD student involved in the research.

“You will be able to play games with other people in autonomous vehicles nearby when the car is driving itself. The games will be imposed on top of the actual world, so drivers won’t have to take their eyes off the road.”

‘People were happy to play with strangers’

The researchers identified gaps in previous autonomous car studies and found that little attention had been given to cross-car games. Knowing this, they developed a virtual reality driving simulator to render the car cabin, outside environment and roadway with artificially controlled cars and intelligent computer-controlled players.

This testbed will allow for the rapid prototyping of in-car games that could include full window head-up displays (HUDs), head tracking and different input methods. 12 people took part in playing the simulated cross-car games with instances where the driver would need to occasionally take over.

“Overall, the participants rated the games highly in immersion, there was a positive response to the incorporation of HUDs in the games, and the different game styles did not significantly impact the takeover task completion time. All games were popular for different reasons,” Lakier said.

“People were happy to play with strangers. So, for example, they said they could form impromptu relationships with other people on the road.”

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic