Ford issued a call to developers of self-driving vehicles to help build a new industry standard interface that can be used to help communicate the intent of autonomous vehicles to road users like passengers, pedestrians and other motorists on the road.
Ford said in a blog post that it will make its own work in this aspect available to other teams through a memorandum of understanding, and thus open-source the development of a new universal AV communications interface.
“We want everyone to trust self-driving vehicles — no matter if they are riders in these vehicles themselves or pedestrians, cyclists, scooter users or other drivers sharing the road,” John Shutko, Ford human factors technical specialist for self-driving vehicles, wrote in the post. “Having one, universal communication interface people across geographies and age groups can understand is critical for the successful deployment of self-driving technology.”
This initiative will take further the real-world research that Ford had done in collaboration with the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute from last year. In that study, Ford engineers mounted a light-bar to the top of the windshield of a Ford Transit Connect van. The drivers were disguised as seats so that it looked as if the vans were operating on their own and this helped to assess if the signals were effective.
The study used three different lighting scenarios: two white lights moving side to side to designate that the vehicle was yielding and going to stop; a solid white light to indicate the vehicle was proceeding on its current course; and a rapidly blinking white light to indicate that the vehicle was going to accelerate from a stop. The Transit Connect was fitted with multiple cameras to record video from every direction so that the reaction of people could be assessed over more than 2,000 miles of testing.
Ford conducted another study in which virtual reality was used and participants were placed at a street corner. They were asked to observe a diverse mix of vehicles passing through an intersection. Some of these vehicles had the intent-interface light signals while some didn’t.
Ford says it plans to leverage the knowledge it has gained so far and to equip the self-driving intent interface on a fleet of autonomous Fusion Hybrid development vehicles that will be used by Argo AI to conduct more tests. Ford is also conducting research in Europe to ensure that the signals are understood universally across regions and cultures.
Ford is also working on making a unified communication interface for AVs in collaboration with the International Organization of Standardization (ISO), and the Society of Automotive Engineers. The ultimate goal is to reach consensus on where signals on a self-driving vehicle should be placed, how they should be designed, and what colors they should sport.
Hamid Moaref has always been fascinated by cars and the automotive industry. His family has a longstanding association with the industry and has been in the tire business for the past 35 years. Raised in Dubai, Hamid attended Capilano University in Vancouver where he graduated with a BBA in marketing before attending an intensive course in magazine publishing in 2005. He has been the publisher and chief editor of Tires & Parts magazine for the past ten years.
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