Ford disguised as a seat a man for the sake of the development of autonomous driving
By: Fedora Atjeh | September 14, 2017
The consumer devastation of Halloween is approaching and we already know what the two costumes will be: clown, an ode to Stephen King even if you do not know who it is, and the car seat. About a month ago, passers-by from Arlington, Virginia, were stunned to see a Ford Transit driving alone through its streets, but did not drive alone.
Now Ford has confirmed that it has launched a study that will analyze the reaction of pedestrians, drivers and cyclists to the light signals of a Transit, which will be led by a man disguised as a seat.
As confirmed by the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute, this is a study they are conducting alongside the oval's signature to test a lighting method designed by Ford. The light signals, installed in the upper front part of the van, indicate the intention of the vehicle to turn, brake or accelerate.
Beyond the comic that can be, it is an interesting way to study human behavior before a technology that is still in development, and with which we still do not feel comfortable. Some studies reveal that we are reluctant to be led; from fear according to an Intel study to fear of lack of common sense.
And we are approaching a future in which we will not be able to make eye contact with the driver of the car approaching us at a pedestrian crossing. Sometimes a hand gesture or a head movement assures us that we can cross in a relatively safe way (that if no car approaches the opposite lane), but before cars without a driver, the scenario becomes more uncertain .
Thus, the luminous signals are outlined as a means to allow communication between man and machine. The researchers considered the use of text on the screen, but that would require that all people understood the same language. The use of symbols was also rejected because historically they have little recognition among consumers. In the end, they opted for signs of illumination.
Ford placed a light bar on the windshield of a Transit Connect and six high-definition cameras were mounted to provide a 360-degree view of the surrounding areas; so it could capture the behavior of other road users.
The researchers also developed the controversial seat suit to hide the human being in the driver's seat. We worked on three possible scenarios to evaluate the performance of visual signaling:
- Performance: Two white lights that move from side to side, indicating that the vehicle is about to stop completely.
- Active autonomous driving: static white light to indicate that the vehicle is driving autonomously.
- Start-up: White light rapidly flashes to indicate that the vehicle is starting to accelerate from a stop.
For a month a total of 150 hours of data were recorded in approximately 2,890 kilometers of driving in an urban environment, data that will be used to study how we react when we see a car 'without driver'. In the end, it is a matter of understanding when we will be prepared to trust as passengers, as pedestrians and as cyclists in autonomous driving.