Why Jaguar is outfitting self-driving cars with ‘googly eyes’

Jaguar is trying to make pedestrians more comfortable around autonomous cars by giving vehicles cars human-like eyes that follow pedestrians to let them know the car ‘sees’ them.


In the wake of a fatal self-driving car accident in March, a survey from AAA found that 73 percent of Americans are afraid to ride in autonomous vehicles–an increase from 63 percent compared to a few months prior.

Autonomous car manufacturers are doing everything they can to make riders feel at ease. But what about pedestrians crossing the street? How will they feel when the world’s streets begin to flood with self-driving cars? After all, technologists and philosophers have raised no shortage of thorny ethical questions about how autonomous cars should be programmed to behave when faced with an imminent and unavoidable accident: Should it minimize harm to the driver or, say, four people sitting at a table on a cafe patio?

In an effort to begin putting pedestrians at ease, Jaguar Land Rover’s Future Mobility division is testing out a silly-looking yet seemingly effective strategy: give cars googly eyes that follow pedestrians to let them know the car ‘sees’ them.


“It’s second-nature to glance at the driver of the approaching vehicle before stepping into the road,” Pete Bennett, Future Mobility Research Manager at Jaguar Land Rover, said in a statement. “Understanding how this translates in tomorrow’s more automated world is important. We want to know if it is beneficial to provide humans with information about a vehicle’s intentions or whether simply letting a pedestrian know it has been recognised is enough to improve confidence.”

At a Jaguar factory in Coventry, England, the company built a model town and had self-driving four-wheeled pods navigate through fake streets and crosswalks, stopping for pedestrians along the way. Some of the autonomous were outfitted with googly eyes, some weren’t.

Jaguar asked cognitive scientists to measure the reactions of more than 500 participants as they walked in front of the pods. The results showed that pedestrians were more likely to trust cars with human-like eyes, though the company hasn’t said how it measured the reactions.

The company said its recent tests are part of larger study that explores how “autonomous vehicles can replicate human behaviour and reactions when driving.”

Overcoming millions of years of evolution in a few decades is simply not an option,” the company wrote in the statement. “As humans we thrive on reading other faces, trusting them, making judgements. With the rise of digital communication we have to employ a much higher degree of cognitive processing to interpret the tone of written email or the intonation of a voice. A face gives us hundreds of tiny clues and therefore requires less cognitive processing power.”

'Upstreamism': Your zip code affects your health as much as genetics

Upstreamism advocate Rishi Manchanda calls us to understand health not as a "personal responsibility" but a "common good."

Sponsored by Northwell Health
  • Upstreamism tasks health care professionals to combat unhealthy social and cultural influences that exist outside — or upstream — of medical facilities.
  • Patients from low-income neighborhoods are most at risk of negative health impacts.
  • Thankfully, health care professionals are not alone. Upstreamism is increasingly part of our cultural consciousness.
Keep reading Show less

Cornell engineers create artificial material with 3 key traits of life

An innovation may lead to lifelike self-reproducing and evolving machines.

Shogo Hamada/Cornell University
Surprising Science
  • Scientists at Cornell University devise a material with 3 key traits of life.
  • The goal for the researchers is not to create life but lifelike machines.
  • The researchers were able to program metabolism into the material's DNA.
Keep reading Show less

After death, you’re aware that you’ve died, say scientists

Some evidence attributes a certain neurological phenomenon to a near death experience.

Credit: Petr Kratochvil. PublicDomainPictures.net.
Surprising Science

Time of death is considered when a person has gone into cardiac arrest. This is the cessation of the electrical impulse that drive the heartbeat. As a result, the heart locks up. The moment the heart stops is considered time of death. But does death overtake our mind immediately afterward or does it slowly creep in?

Keep reading Show less
Videos
  • A huge segment of America's population — the Baby Boom generation — is aging and will live longer than any American generation in history.
  • The story we read about in the news? Their drain on social services like Social Security and Medicare.
  • But increased longevity is a cause for celebration, says Ashton Applewhite, not doom and gloom.