Newswise — Robotic eyes on self-driving vehicles could improve pedestrian safety, according to a new study from the University of Tokyo. Participants played virtual reality (VR) scenarios and had to decide whether or not to cross a road in front of a moving vehicle. When this vehicle was equipped with robotic eyes, which looked at the pedestrian (registering their presence) or away (not registering them), participants could make safer or more efficient choices.
Autonomous vehicles seem to be upon us. Whether it’s delivering packages, plowing fields, or ferrying kids to school, there’s a lot of research going on to turn a once futuristic idea into reality.
While the primary concern for many is the practicality of creating vehicles capable of autonomously navigating the world, researchers at the University of Tokyo have turned their attention to a more ‘human’ concern of driving technology. autonomous. “There are not enough investigations into the interaction between self-driving cars and the people around them, such as pedestrians. We therefore need more investigation and effort into such interaction to bring safety and assurance to society regarding self-driving cars,” said Professor Takeo Igarashi of the Graduate School of Information Science and Technology.
One of the main differences with self-driving vehicles is that drivers can become more like passengers, so they may not be paying their full attention to the road, or there may be no one there. driving. This makes it difficult for pedestrians to assess whether a vehicle has registered their presence or not, as there may be no eye contact or indication of people inside.
So how do you notify pedestrians when an autonomous vehicle has noticed them and intends to stop? Like a Pixar movie character Cars, a self-driving golf cart was equipped with two large remote-controlled robotic eyes. The researchers called it the “watching car”. They wanted to test whether putting wiggly eyes on the cart would affect people’s riskier behavior, in this case, if people always crossed the road in front of a moving vehicle when in a hurry.
The team set up four scenarios, two where the cart had eyes and two without. Either the cart had noticed the pedestrian and intended to stop, or it hadn’t noticed and was going to continue driving. When the cart had eyes, the eyes either looked towards the pedestrian (will stop) or looked away (will not stop).
As it would obviously be dangerous to ask volunteers to choose whether or not to walk in front of a moving vehicle in real life (although for this experiment there was a hidden driver), the team recorded the scenarios using 360-degree video cameras and 18 participants (nine women and nine men, ages 18-49, all Japanese) took part in the virtual reality experience. They experienced the scenarios several times in random order and had three seconds each time to decide whether or not they would cross the road in front of the cart. The researchers recorded their choices and measured the error rates of their decisions, i.e. how often they chose to stop when they could have crossed and how often they crossed when they should have waited.
“The results suggested a clear gender difference, which was very surprising and unexpected,” said Chia-Ming Chang, a lecturer in the project and a member of the research team. “While other factors like age and background also influenced participants’ reactions, we think this is an important point, as it shows that different road users may have different behaviors and needs, that require different means of communication in our future self-driving world.
“In this study, male participants made many dangerous decisions to cross the road (i.e. choosing to cross when the car was not stopping), but these errors were reduced by the gaze of the cart . However, there was not much difference in the safe situations for them (i.e. choosing to cross when the car was going to stop),” Chang explained. “On the other hand, participants made more inefficient decisions (i.e. choosing not to cross when the car intended to stop) and these errors were reduced by the gaze of the cart. However, there was not much difference in dangerous situations for them. Ultimately, experience has shown that eyes lead to a smoother or safer crossing for everyone.
But what did the eyes make the participants feel? Some thought they were cute, while others saw them as creepy or scary. For many male participants, when their eyes were averted, they reported feeling the situation was more dangerous. For participants, when the eyes looked at them, many said they felt safer “We focused on eye movement but didn’t pay too much attention to their visual design in this particular study. We just built the simplest to minimize design and construction costs due to budget constraints,” Igarashi explained. “In the future, it would be better for a professional product designer to find the best design, but it would probably still be difficult to satisfy everyone. Personally, I like that. It’s pretty cute.
The team acknowledges that this study is limited by the small number of participants playing a single scenario. It’s also possible that people make different choices in virtual reality than in real life. However, “Switching from manual to automatic driving is a huge change. If eyes can really help safety and reduce traffic accidents, we should seriously consider adding them. In the future, we would like to develop autonomous AI-connected robotic eye automatic control (instead of manually controlled), which could adapt to different situations. Igarashi said. “I hope this research will encourage other groups to try similar ideas, anything that facilitates better interaction between self-driving cars and pedestrians, which ultimately saves people’s lives.”
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