Scientists fool pedestrians with a 'ghost driver' disguised as a car seat in new study
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Researchers attempted to fool pedestrians by disguising a man as a car seat, so it appeared as though the vehicle was driving by itself. Look, it was for science, OK?
The study, carried out by the University of Nottingham, aimed to find out how pedestrians respond to self-driving vehicles with different visual displays - or External Human-Machine Interfaces (eHMIs) - on the front of them.
While this ghost driver cruised around campus over several days, different designs were shown on the eHMI informing pedestrians of the car’s behaviour and intention, including eyes and a face.
It was accompanied by a short message such as, ‘I have seen you’ or ‘I am giving way’.
Cameras on the front and rear of the vehicle caught pedestrians' responses to the eHMI; while other researchers were placed outside the car to ask pedestrians to complete short surveys.
Explaining the purpose of the study, David R. Large, Senior Research Fellow with the Human Factors Research Group at the University of Nottingham, said: “As part of the ServCity project, which created a blueprint infrastructure for autonomous vehicles in the UK, we wanted to explore how pedestrians would interact with a driverless car and developed this unique methodology to explore their reactions.
"We were keen to identify which designs invited the highest levels of trust by people wanting to cross the road."
After collecting data from 520, as well as 64 surveys, the study’s authors were able to analyse it and gain ‘significant insights into people’s attitudes and behaviour in response to the different eHMI displays, and autonomous vehicles more generally’.
Professor Gary Burnett, Head of the Human Factors Research Group and Professor of Transport Human Factors in the Faculty of Engineering said: “We were pleased to see that the external HMI, was deemed to be an important factor by a substantial number of respondents when deciding whether or not to cross the road – an encouraging discovery for furthering this type of work.
“With regards to the displays, the explicit eyes eHMI not only captured the most visual attention, but it also received good ratings for trust and clarity as well as the highest preference, whereas the implicit LED strip was rated as less clear and invited lower ratings of trust.”
And in a somewhat adorable addition, researchers also found that ‘pedestrians continued to use hand gestures, for example thanking the car, despite most survey respondents believing the car was genuinely driverless’.
So we humans are pretty polite even when we think we’re dealing with robots. Lovely.