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Jaguar Land Rover has fit­ted “vir­tual eyes” to in­tel­li­gent pods to un­der­stand how hu­mans will trust self-driv­ing ve­hi­cles, as re­search stud­ies sug­gest nearly two-thirds of pedes­tri­ans worry about how safe it will be to cross the road in fu­ture.

The friendly faced “eye pods” have a vi­tal job: help­ing work out how much in­for­ma­tion fu­ture au­ton­o­mous cars should share with users or pedes­tri­ans to en­sure that peo­ple trust the tech­nol­ogy.

Jaguar Land Rover has en­listed a team of cog­ni­tive psy­chol­o­gists to bet­ter un­der­stand how ve­hi­cle be­hav­iour af­fects hu­man con­fi­dence in new tech­nol­ogy. The in­tel­li­gent pods run au­tonomously on a fab­ri­cated street scene in Coven­try, UK, while the be­hav­iour of pedes­tri­ans is an­a­lysed as they wait to cross the road.

The pods seek out the pedes­trian — ap­pear­ing to “look” di­rectly at them — sig­nalling to road users that it has iden­ti­fied them and in­tends to take avoid­ing ac­tion.

En­gi­neers record trust lev­els in the per­son be­fore and after the pod makes “eye con­tact” to find out whether it gen­er­ates suf­fi­cient con­fi­dence that it would stop for them. Pre­vi­ous stud­ies sug­gest as many 63% of pedes­tri­ans and cy­clists say they’d feel less safe shar­ing the road with a self-driv­ing ve­hi­cle.

“It’s sec­ond na­ture to glance at the driver of the ap­proach­ing ve­hi­cle be­fore step­ping into the road,” said Pete Ben­nett, fu­ture mo­bil­ity re­search man­ager at Jaguar Land Rover.

“We want to know if it is ben­e­fi­cial to pro­vide hu­mans with in­for­ma­tion about a ve­hi­cle’s in­ten­tions or whether sim­ply let­ting a pedes­trian know it has been recog­nised is enough to im­prove con­fi­dence.”

The tri­als are part of a wider study ex­plor­ing how fu­ture connected and au­ton­o­mous ve­hi­cles can repli­cate hu­man be­hav­iour and re­ac­tions when driv­ing. BMW has re­leased a teaser sketch of its new tech­nol­ogy flag­ship, the iN­ext elec­tric car, which is due to be un­veiled to the world next month.

The Ger­man car maker has con­firmed that its fu­ture is elec­tric ve­hi­cles and re­cently an­nounced that the iN­ext will be pro­duced at BMW’s Din­golf­ing plant in Ger­many start­ing in 2021. BMW also plans to launch the i4 bat­tery­elec­tric Gran Coupé in 2020.

Very lit­tle is known about the iN­ext ex­cept that it will be the Ger­man pre­mium brand’s tech­nol­ogy leader.

The teaser sketch re­veals a low-slung coupe-style body that would set the iN­ext apart from BMW’s high-roofed i3, which was the firm’s first elec­tric car.

BMW also said that the car will have a 700km range and will have a new level of au­to­mated driv­ing. Toyota has signed a ma­jor deal with Uber to hurry along the de­vel­op­ment of au­ton­o­mous ve­hi­cles.

The Ja­panese man­u­fac­turer in­vested $500m (about R7.4bn) in the ride-shar­ing com­pany, which will retro­fit Toyota Si­enna mini­vans with its self-driv­ing tech­nol­ogy and be­gin test­ing them on pub­lic roads in 2021.

The deal, which re­port­edly val­ues Uber at about $72bn, aims at “ad­vanc­ing and bring­ing to mar­ket au­ton­o­mous ride-shar­ing as a mo­bil­ity ser­vice at scale”, Toyota said in a state­ment.

For Toyota the deal marks an im­por­tant mile­stone in its trans­for­ma­tion from merely a car-build­ing com­pany to a holis­tic mo­bil­ity provider.

The agree­ment came as BMW Mo­tor­rad South Africa has in­tro­duced a new stan­dard three-year war­ranty with un­lim­ited kilo­me­tres across its com­plete range of mo­tor­cy­cles.

The three-year, un­lim­ited kilo­me­tres plan ap­plies to bikes pur­chased from Au­gust 1 2018 and comes at no ad­di­tional cost to cus­tomers.

New, used and demo mo­tor­cy­cles pur­chased prior to that date will be sub­ject to the pre­vi­ous two-year, un­lim­ited kilo­me­tres war­ranty.

The peace-of-mind plan cov­ers any pos­si­ble man­u­fac­turer de­fects (in­clud­ing labour) and ex­cludes wearand-tear items such as tyres.

The peace-of-mind plan from BMW Mo­tor­rad South Africa cov­ers any pos­si­ble man­u­fac­turer de­fects.

The iN­ext will be pro­duced at BMW’s Din­golf­ing plant in Ger­many start­ing in 2021.

The friendly faced ‘eye pods’ have a vi­tal job in help­ing to work out how much in­for­ma­tion fu­ture au­ton­o­mous cars should share with users or pedes­tri­ans.

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