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Drivers are more confident in self-driving vehicles that act a little more human

A study found that spending more time with autonomous vehicles led to more trust

Photo (c) AkaratPhasura - Getty Images
As experts work to perfect autonomous vehicles, engaging consumers in the fine-tuning process has been key to advancing the technology being used. 

Recently, researchers from the University of Warwick wanted to see what kind of driving style left consumers feeling the most confident in a self-driving vehicle after four rounds on an indoor test track -- one that mimicked traditional human driving or one that favored efficiency in a more machine-like approach. 

“This overall trust in both driving methods grew with every run,” said researcher Dr. Luis Oliveira. “In the machine-like driving style this was steady upwards curve throughout the four journeys, but in human-like behavior there was a particularly steep change upwards in the scores between runs two and three. The passengers in the experiment also acknowledged that future generations may be more comfortable with AVs and its features, as they learn to live with this new technology.” 

Gaining confidence

The researchers utilized an indoor track and over 40 participants to gauge consumers’ reactions to three distinct driving maneuvers in the two different driving styles: speed change, sharp turns, and handling at junctions. 

The machine-like vehicle ultimately won out, though it wasn’t by a very wide margin. As Dr. Oliveira mentioned, gaining confidence in autonomous vehicles was the key for participants, as more time spent with the technology made the participants more comfortable with it over time. 

While participants gave scores on their overall confidence levels, they were also asked to provide written descriptions about their feelings towards the different driving maneuvers. This is where  the researchers got the most diverse feedback, and they realized that this wasn’t such a clear-cut decision for participants to make. 

When it came to changing speeds, the machine-like driving style was more favorable to participants, as it avoided any jerky movements that typically come with human driving movements, whereas sharp turns were unfavorable in both kinds of vehicles. 

However, handling junctions left the researchers with the most mixed reviews, as mimicking human driving seemed unnatural to many participants, while other participants felt that the machine-like driving overcompensated to make passengers feel safe. 

Overall, the researchers believe that time with the technology is the best bet for consumers to feel comfortable and confident with autonomous vehicles, as is keeping an open line of communication with the details to better prepare future drivers for what they can expect. 

Perfecting the system

Though many consumers are still skeptical about autonomous vehicle technology, researchers are continuing their work to make the technology as safe for roads as possible -- even test roads. 

Recently, a team of researchers created a simulator that would make self-driving cars safer before they ever even start testing. 

“Because we’re using real-world video and real-world movements, our perception module has more accurate information than previous methods,” said researcher Dinesh Manocha. “And then, because of the realism of the simulator, we can better evaluate navigation strategies of an autonomous driving system.”

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