Ford to Introduce Signals of Intent for Self-Driving Cars

Engineers of self-driving cars are working hard to ensure that their autonomous vehicle avoids other road users. And now, the next step is to help those interactions go smoothly by having self-driving cars signal their intentions to pedestrians, cyclists and human drivers.

Thus, Ford has announced their proposed standard for just that, with a series of flashing lights that signal “intent.”

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Ford recently published a blog post that stated other road users shouldn’t be expected to change their behaviour due to self-driving cars. However, the company believes that any Level 4 autonomous vehicle, which is one that operates in certain situations without a human driver needing to take control, should be able to communicate it’s intent. Thus, Ford wants to develop a standard for all autonomous cars to use.

The proposed standard by Ford would have autonomous cars use two white lights moving side-to-side to signal that the vehicle is yielding and is about to stop. A solid white light would indicate the car is driving autonomously. While rapidly blinking white lights would function as a warning that the car is about to accelerate. Ford tested these in both a real-world study and virtual-reality simulations.

Now, Ford plans to install these intention-signalling lights on autonomous vehicles operated in partnership with Argo AI in Florida, in addition to installing them on test vehicles in Europe. Furthermore, Ford wants to work with the International Organization of Standardization and the Society of Automotive Engineers to design a unified communication interface for autonomous vehicles.

The idea comes out of a research project where Ford observed the behaviour of drivers and pedestrians around a vehicle with a “hidden” driver designed to simulate a self-driving car. The point was to see how people reacted to a vehicle without a human behind the wheel.

Ford has also revealed plans to introduce a self-driving car by 2021. Although this vehicle will be completely autonomous without traditional pedals or a steering wheel, the plan isn’t to sell the car to consumers. Instead, Ford will operate these autonomous cars as a ride-hailing service that you can summon to transport you from one place to another. Sort of like Uber without the driver.

Ford isn’t the only company looking into how to ensure self-driving cars can communicate with the world around them. Volvo has come up with a 360c concept, which will employ lights and sounds to let pedestrians and drivers know its intended direction.

Additionally, Supplier Mobileye is working on software called Responsibility-Sensitive Safety that would ascertain how aggressively an autonomous vehicle is driving. For example, in a demo in Israel, the prototype car made its way into busy traffic while signalling. The idea is that an autonomous car needs to be somewhat aggressive at times to keep pace with — or inject itself into — busy human-driven traffic.

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When preparing news, materials from the following publications were used:


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