The Smiling Car — Semcon’s Self-Driving Car Concept Smiles At Pedestrians

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One of the things that seems to make some people uncomfortable with the switch to autonomous vehicles is the lack of “communication” between the passenger and “driver” or between the “driver” and other people on the road, bike lane, bike path, or sidewalk.

When dealing with human drivers, it’s more or less immediately obvious when someone sees you or not, and thus you’re able to better judge whether you should be walking across the street, waiting because the driver appears to be a careless one, etc.

With autonomous cars, though, pedestrians are more or less in the dark about what’s going on in the software. There are no head nods, there’s no eye contact, no hand gesturing — in other words, no easy way of telling what the driving software is aware of.

With that in mind, Semcon has developed a new autonomous car concept that “gives pedestrians a smile to let them know it’s safe to cross the street.”

Autoblog provides more: “It’s sort of a first stab at creating a larger communication standard for self-driving vehicles. Much like today’s cars use brake lights and turn signals to communicate with other humans on the road, Semcon says that ‘a common language for how self-driving cars will interact with humans is now needed.’ In this case, the first step happens to be a display in the car’s grille flashing the universally recognized smile to warmly communicate that the autonomous system sees the pedestrians and is waiting for them to proceed.”

While the need is there, I don’t think that I’m really a fan of the implementation. It seems a bit too ambiguous to me. Any thoughts?

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James Ayre

James Ayre's background is predominantly in geopolitics and history, but he has an obsessive interest in pretty much everything. After an early life spent in the Imperial Free City of Dortmund, James followed the river Ruhr to Cofbuokheim, where he attended the University of Astnide. And where he also briefly considered entering the coal mining business. He currently writes for a living, on a broad variety of subjects, ranging from science, to politics, to military history, to renewable energy.

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