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Fully autonomous cars are expected to dramatically increase driving safety when they eventually hit the roads, but it could cause new hazards for other road users. And to be successful, people have to actually want them on the roads.
“We are now considering how society in general is going to interact with these vehicles,” Shutko said. “I think it will help with overall acceptance of them.”
Details: Ford teamed up with the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute for the study. Researchers logged 150 hours of data over 1,800 miles and activated external signals on the car to gauge pedestrians’ reactions. Ford placed a bar of white lights on the windshield of the test vehicle and tested three signal types:
- Yielding: Two white lights moving side to side, showing the vehicle is about to come to a full stop
- Active autonomous driving: Solid white lights to indicate the vehicle is driving autonomously
- Accelerating: Rapidly blinking white light to indicate vehicle is beginning to go from a stop.
Standardization push: It would be a huge failure on the industry’s part if different automakers come to market with different strategies for these types of signals, Shutko said. Ford is already working with standard-setting bodies, and wants other manufacturers to collaborate on the effort. So far, no one has expressed interest, Shutko said.
What’s next: The study’s results will be released later this fall. Ford and VTTI decided to explain the research after last month’s media attention so that people wouldn’t think the research project was “just a prank.”