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Communication Is Key for Building Trust for Autonomous Vehicles

Many surveys over the past few years have shown that people are sceptical about the safety of self-driving vehicles. For example, a AAA survey last year resulted in 73% saying they felt too unsafe to ride in self-driving cars and 63% saying they felt unsafe near them. The developers of autonomous vehicles are increasingly aware that one of the crucial components will be to gain the trust of passengers and pedestrians [1].

Companies are hard at work on how to communicate what the AV sees and is doing. "It's about gaining trust, and the way that we do that is by making sure there are a lot of communications in a lot of different ways back to the person in the car," says Tisha Johnson, Volvo's vice president of interior design. "In a good relationship, over-communication is a good thing."

Waymo, which is testing self-driving minivans in Phoenix, are trying to get the interior screens to share what the vehicle sees and thinks, without overwhelming passengers with information. The screens are highlighting pedestrians and cyclists and render them using the actual LiDAR points, so passengers can see their arms and legs move. They also communicate what the vehicle is thinking or doing. For example, if the minivan stops at a crosswalk, the screen will highlight the crosswalk, while typing out that it is yielding for a pedestrian.

When commenting on the Volvo 360c AV concept, Robin Page, Volvo's head of design stated that “This concept was really an exploration of the challenges that we've got ahead. We haven't got all the answers. What we need to do is explore this a bit more and get a better understanding. There's a lot more work that needs to be done. We're on a journey."

AVs will also need to communicate with other road users, especially in a period when human-driven cars and self-driving vehicles share the road, and if companies are coming up with their own solutions it will result in serious confusion for everyone.


Personal comments

Surveys on general attitudes towards AVs are at best indications on early intention to use but have little to say about how the future will develop when people actually get to try these services and build experience over time. Providing some insight into the functionality and capabilities of these autonomous vehicles is one part of the puzzle in building understanding and appropriate level of trust. Then, what should be the correct level of trust has more to do with what we gravitate towards in the interplay between safety and risk, mixed traffic and achieving an efficient transport system. Important to remember is that direct interaction with the product is only a subsection of the aspects affecting trust.


Written by Victor Malmsten Lundgren, RISE Viktoria.



1. 2018-11-26. A penny for your thoughts.