Crossing the road in the world of autonomous cars

VR prototyping for communicating autonomous vehicle intent to pedestrians.

Crossing the road is a social interaction. Eye contact, hand-waiving, the head nod — these are all social norms pedestrians and drivers use to communicate intention. With driverless vehicles, this subtle, very human etiquette will present a new challenge to autonomous vehicles. As a first step in exploring this space, we set out to design for the seemingly simple scenario of a pedestrian crossing the road in an autonomous world.

Our design hypothesis is as follows:

Autonomous vehicles will need to communicate their behavior and intentions to human drivers, pedestrians, and potentially other autonomous vehicles. These means of communication will need to become as familiar as looking at a crosswalk signal or traffic light.

Designing for a future always requires setting some self-evident truths, so we developed the following assumptions:

  • Autonomous vehicles will always obey traffic laws
  • Autonomous vehicles will do their best to not injure humans
  • Pedestrians will still rely on signals when crossing a busy street
  • Pedestrians will jaywalk if they decide that it’s safe to do so

22. August 2017

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