In an effort to advance the safe deployment of autonomous vehicles (AV) for all roadway users, Ford Motor Company is calling upon all self-driving vehicle developers to work together to develop an industry standard for communicating driving intent.
A recent article published by the automaker on Medium.com outlines Ford’s specific efforts and the company’s rationale for striving for a universal language. It is the best approach, notes Ford, because it provides a basis for everyone to trust self-driving vehicles—be they a rider in an AV, or a pedestrian, cyclist, scooter user, or another driver.
Last year, Ford conducted a real-world study of its self-driving intent interface in conjunction with Virginia Tech Transportation Institute (VTTI). The intent interface is essentially a light-bar and it was mounted to the top of a windshield of a Ford Transit Connect van. The VTTI team designed a means for the van to operate as if it were autonomous and then tested three different lighting patterns to reflect yielding, active driving mode, and start-to-go.
Through the use of cameras—and over the course of approximately 2,000 miles—the research team observed how pedestrians and other motorists responded to the vehicle signaling its intent.
The results found that the light signal interface did not encourage any unsafe behavior by other road users. The automaker believes the results suggest there is baseline to build from in terms of the potential to improve acceptance of self-driving vehicles and confidence in the technology.
Additional efforts on the part of Ford include another study in virtual reality as well as research in Europe to understand how the same signals are received across regions and cultures.
The automaker is currently installing the self-driving intent interface on a small fleet of its Fusion Hybrid self-driving development vehicles to be used by Argo AI in Miami-Dade County. Ongoing testing will continue to observe how pedestrians and drivers respond to the light bar.
Ford’s call to arms to the industry to work together toward standardization is intended to help accelerate the safe deployment of AV for all roadway users.