As part of its research into a communication interface that will help autonomous vehicles integrate with other road users, Ford has been testing a light system to indicate what the vehicle is doing and what it will do next.
Ford installed the system, as well as a ‘Human Car Seat’ in a Transit Connect van. Designed to look like an autonomous vehicle, with the driver hidden in the seat, the company says that observers could more effectively gauge responses to a roof-mounted light bar that flashed white, purple and turquoise to indicate when the van was driving, about to pull forwards and giving way.
The tests concluded that 60 per cent of 173 people surveyed after encountering the Transit Connect thought it was an autonomous vehicle. Together with the observed reactions of a further 1,600 people, turquoise – more noticeable than white and less easily confused with red than purple – was the preferred colour. There was also a high level of acceptance and trust in the signals, providing a basis from which researchers can further develop the visual language.
In separate tests conducted by Ford together with the automotive lighting and electronics specialist HELLA, researchers tested further locations for the lights, such as on the grille and headlamps, though no clear preference emerged.