Passenger and pedestrian confidence and acceptance will be key to the future and development of autonomous vehicles so researchers at WMG at the University of Warwick have just conducted and reported an experiment to see which autonomous vehicles driving style engendered the highest levels of confidence among autonomous vehicles passengers – driving with full machine efficiency, or driving in a way that emulates average human driving. The surprising result was that neither was optimal but that a blend of both might be best.

The researchers took 43 volunteers into a large warehouse designed to resemble a pedestrianised area in a town centre with a series of routes that included a range of junctions. Half were given 4 journeys around the route in an autonomous vehicle driving with full machine efficiency using all its capabilities to drive in as safe and efficient manner as possible while the others were given 4 journeys around the route in autonomous vehicles that tried to closely emulate average human driving patterns. They then scored the level of trust in the autonomous vehicles. The result has have just been published in the journal Information (2019, 10, 219; doi:10.3390/info10060219).

The overall result was that there was only a marginal difference in trust between the two driving methods. The efficient machine method was slightly favoured but even that small gap between the two driving styles narrowed over the four runs. What was noticeable for both the “machine” and “human“ driving styles is that confidence in both grew with each new round suggesting that simple familiarity and growing accustomed to the experience will be one of the most effective ways of quickly building trust and acceptance of autonomous vehicles once their use becomes more widespread.

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