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Jaguar mimics human behaviour in driverless cars

Home James: Self-driving Jaguars and Land Rovers will feel more like there is a human at the wheel, thanks to a new project that analyses driver behaviour in difficult situations.

Data profiling project to make autonomous Jaguars respond more naturally

2 Feb 2016

JAGUAR Land Rover has initiated a multi-million dollar project that will allow its autonomous cars to behave less like emotionless computers and more like the human drivers they replace.

With self-driving cars that react to a changing environment in a more natural manner, JLR is planning to make autonomous technology easier for consumers to accept, as the company draws ever closer to offering its first production model.

A team of Jaguar Land Rover employees will drive a specially modified fleet of vehicles around London's suburb of Greenwich to log data on how human drivers react to the various challenges faced during everyday driving.

The information will create a vital profile on how different drivers respond to stressful situations and the decisions they make when under pressure.

Cameras and sensors around the vehicles will capture data in various real-world scenarios such as responding to an approaching emergency vehicle, negotiating roundabouts and busy junctions and joining moving traffic.

Without the farmed data incorporated into an autonomous vehicle's algorithms, driverless cars may respond to situations requiring a rapid decision in a peculiar or uncomfortable manner for passengers.

“Customers are much more likely to accept highly-automated and fully autonomous vehicles if the car reacts in the same way as the driver,” said Jaguar Land Rover research and technology director Wolfgang Epple.

“By understanding and measuring positive driving behaviours we can ensure that an autonomous Jaguar or Land Rover of the future will not simply perform a robotic function,” he said.

“To successfully introduce autonomous cars, we actually need to focus more on the driver than ever before. Understanding how drivers react to a range of very dynamic and random situations in the real world is essential if we want drivers to embrace autonomous cars in the future.”

With more confidence in autonomous technology, Dr Epple said owners would make the best use of the technology, sticking to conventional driving on more enjoyable roads but allowing the car to take over in more stressful situations.

“Ultimately we want to be able to give drivers the choice of an engaged or autonomous drive. If drivers have confidence in the automation they will seamlessly flick from one mode to the other.

“Autonomous mode will help with any challenging, or less stimulating activities on the journey, like parking or driving in heavy traffic. If this automated experience feels natural and safe, the driver will be able to genuinely relax and will be happy to let the car take control.”

In 2013, GoAuto reported on a research paper that found drivers often resort to mild aggression when negotiating tricky situations on the road, and that self-driving cars will need to do the same.

Without the ability to make an assertive decision, computer-controlled cars would grind to a halt, unable to take decisive action, while human-controlled vehicles used aggression to progress.

The revelation that machines may need to have the ability to become aggressive, even in a mild sense, raises a complex moral conundrum that is yet to be fully resolved.

JLR says its behavioural study will help insurance companies establish a benchmark for autonomous car insurance policies, but exactly which underwriters will be willing to cover a vehicle that has the potential to become aggressive remains to be seen.

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