Jaguar Land Rover trials "virtual eyes" in autonomous tech tests

Pixelated pupils will let pedestrians know the car has spotted them

JAGUAR Land Rover has adorned autonomous technology pods with pairs of “virtual eyes”, as part of ongoing analysis of self-driving systems.

The odd-looking pixelated peepers don’t ‘see’; they’re the vehicle’s way of letting pedestrians know its sensors have noticed them, according to Jaguar Land Rover’s Future Mobility division.

According to the car maker, research suggests 63% of pedestrians and cyclists would feel less safe on the road if they had to share the space with a self-driving car.

As part of the experiment, participants’ trust in the eye pod is measured before and after it makes eye contact with them, to see if the digital optics have any effect on how confident people are that the pod won’t run them over.

Virtual eyes won’t necessarily feature on future self-driving Jaguars or Land Rovers; the company says feedback from these assessments is merely intended to form part of its wider research into future autonomous car systems, and how they can mimic the behaviour of people.

Pete Bennet, Jaguar Land Rover’s Future Mobility Research Manager, said: “It’s second nature to glance at the driver of an approaching vehicle before stepping into the road. 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.”