Drive.ai suggests roof-mounted emoji displays will allow occupants of driverless cars to communicate with those around them

Occupants of driverless cars will be able to communicate with others using roof-mounted emoji displays, according to plans by a Silicon Valley company.

Drive.ai, a company which aims to retrofit cars with autonomous tech, will also be testing its emoji displays in California, after the company was approved to test on its roads earlier this year, according to a report in the Financial Times.

The display has both front and rear screens allowing simultaneous communication to multiple road users; for example, when stopped at a pedestrian crossing, the car can indicate to pedestrians that it is allowing them to cross, while showing road users behind the car that the reason it has stopped.

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Car-to-car communication is a hot topic for developers of autonomous car technology, as the cars need to be able to pinpoint each other and indicate the car’s intended actions to make the other cars aware of them.

Drive.ai’s aim with the emoji display is for the people inside those cars to communicate with one another through emojis, with a range of facial expressions and other emoji-based messages; revolutionising communication between road users. 

The company aimed harsh criticism at the humble car horn: "Cars’ communication features, from blinkers to the horn, have not been reimagined in decades. There’s an incredible opportunity to improve this communication, especially in the case of self-driving cars where there is no human driver to indicate with hand gestures or facial signals. The horn, for example, is one of the worst designed features in the car today. It’s one sound/tone, and you can’t tell who it’s targeted at or what the intention is -- it could be anything from a polite nudge to an angry exclamation."

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It’s not yet been made clear if more aggressive emojis, like a punching fist or middle finger, would be available for use, with critics of the proposal suggesting that the idea may exacerbate road rage incidents. Drive.ai argued the opposite, saying "Adding a layer of communication to self-driving cars is in fact designed to minimize frustration for other drivers and pedestrians because it creates transparency around what the car is doing and why. When drivers and pedestrians are unsure of what the self-driving car is “thinking,” that unpredictability leads to distrust, anger, and thereby road rage."

In addition to the display’s ability to show emojis, the display can also show text, as well as having the ability to make sounds to aid the car’s communication with other road users. A spokesman from Drive.ai clarified the system's selection of the emojis used, explaining that a deep learning algorithm would determine which would be used depending on the situation, and that the driver would have no input into which symbols are transmitted.

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Sahar Danesh, Principal Policy Advisor for Transport at the Institution of Engineering and Technology, said: “A great deal of research is being carried out on vehicle-to-vehicle and vehicle-to-infrastructure technologies, this work is interesting as it is exploring the vehicle-to-human interaction.

Currently when we want to cross the road, we try to make sure the driver is aware of us; so how will we do that with autonomous cars – how will we know the car has noted our presence and it is safe to cross the road? IET research has revealed that 82% of the British public believe that technology has had a positive impact on their day-to-day lives and emojis are a common feature of other social technologies so it makes sense to consider these in this context.

So this research will open the opportunity to start experimenting with autonomous vehicle technology and to consider how the public will interact with them. We encourage testing and look forward to seeing how this develops.”

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Comments
8

31 August 2016
Emojis on display? New vehicle technology is sounding more and more grim as the weeks continue. How distracting would this kind of crap be for real drivers?

31 August 2016
This is a great idea. I visual indication to other road users that there is a idiot in the car not paying attention, and best kept well clear of to avoid and accident.

31 August 2016
I can think of several emoji's that will come in useful on the UK's roads, trouble is, they aren't very polite.....

31 August 2016
inside_man wrote:

I can think of several emoji's that will come in useful on the UK's roads, trouble is, they aren't very polite.....

Is there one for effing tw@t?

Citroëniste.

31 August 2016
Must have the 'poop' emoji. Ironically, there is a radio advert running at the moment that suggests controlling a car using emojis.

31 August 2016
What complete and utter nonsense. And yes, people will flock to this like flies to shit and pay top dollar for an unneeded distraction. Like Pokemon Go, it will be big in America.

31 August 2016
back to April the first!!

31 August 2016
..anyone else just want to shout: "f__k off and grow up!" at the screen?

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