Jaguar Land Rover's self-driving pods beam their route onto the road

Jaguar Land Rover autonomous pod

Jaguar Land Rover is experimenting with a new way to help pedestrians trust self-driving cars: projecting the planned direction of travel onto the road, so humans can see whether the vehicle is planning to pull away, turn or stop.

The company is testing the system on self-driving pods developed by British automaker Aurrigo, as part of an ongoing experiment to help pedestrians feel more comfortable sharing space with autonomous vehicles.

To indicate their intentions, each pod beams a series of bars onto the road ahead. The bars move closer together as the pod slows down, and compress completely as it stops. When the pod is about to turn, the bars fan out to the left or right.

Eyes ahead

Jaguar Land Rover's Future Mobility division is working to build trust after research revealed that 41% of drivers and pedestrians don't feel safe sharing the streets with autonomous cars.

Last year, the company tried attaching googly eyes to its autonomous pods, enabling them to make eye contact with pedestrians to acknowledge that they've been seen.

Jaguar Land Rover autonomous pod

”The trials are about understanding how much information a self-driving vehicle should share with a pedestrian to gain their trust,” said Pete Bennett, Future Mobility research manager at Jaguar Land Rover.

”Just like any new technology, humans have to learn to trust it, and when it comes to autonomous vehicles, pedestrians must have confidence they can cross the road safely. This pioneering research is forming the basis of ongoing development into how self-driving cars will interact with people in the future.” 

Cat Ellis

Cat is the editor of TechRadar's sister site Advnture. She’s a UK Athletics qualified run leader, and in her spare time enjoys nothing more than lacing up her shoes and hitting the roads and trails (the muddier, the better)