Auto Tech

Jaguar Land Rover's self-driving pod has creepy googly eyes

No, it's not meant to freak people out, it's meant to measure how humans exist alongside autonomous vehicles.

Jaguar Land Rover

There is something very unnerving about a vehicle with eyes on it. Jaguar Land Rover's self-driving pods might become your next great nightmare fuel, but the company insists there's a good reason why this thing exists.

Jaguar Land Rover has slapped some weird quasi-googly eyes on a self-driving pod in order to trust how consumers will trust AVs on the road. As a pedestrian waits to cross a fake road, the pod rolls up and its "eyes" focus on the pedestrian, much in the way that a passing driver might make eye contact with a pedestrian, acknowledging that they have been seen.

Researchers then gauge the trust level in the pedestrian that the pod will let the human cross without issue. That trust is calculated twice -- once before the "eye contact," and once after. It's all part of a larger study meant to investigate the interactions between self-driving vehicles and pedestrians, and whether or not replicating human behavior in the vehicles will help foster that trust.

Jaguar Land Rover says that, based on prior studies, nearly two-thirds of pedestrians and cyclists said they would feel less safe sharing the road with a self-driving vehicle. More recent polls found that distrust spiked shortly after Uber made the news when one of its self-driving development vehicles hit and killed a pedestrian in Arizona.

"It's second nature to glance at the driver of the approaching vehicle before stepping into the road," said Pete Bennett, mobility research manager at Jaguar Land Rover, in a statement. "Understanding how this translates in tomorrow's more automated world is important." Let's just hope the final result doesn't have those creepy peepers.