Gothenburg, Sweden - There are many debates surrounding the feasibility of fully autonomous cars and how long it will take before they are ready to hit the mainstream, but few will argue against the fact that one day cars will drive themselves completely.
Of course, the road to fully autonomous vehicles brings with it a number of challenges, and central to these is how cars will communicate with each other and what ethical decisions autonomous cars might have to make in an emergency situation.
However, what’s not often considered is how driverless cars will communicate with pedestrians and cyclists. In the video below, Volvo Cars’ technical leader for collision avoidance functions, Mikael Ljung Aust, points out some of the challenges in this regard as well as the possible solutions.
Since the dawn of the automotive era, pedestrians have relied on the sounds that cars make, including their hooters of course, to navigate the streets safely. But in a future world of silent battery-powered autonomous cars, new solutions will be needed.
According to Volvo Cars, the automotive industry needs to create a new, universal language that will allow driverless cars to communicate effectively with pedestrians and cyclists.
What Ljung Aust proposes is three or four key sounds, with differing frequencies and pulsations, that tell road users whether or not it’s safe to cross the road. For instance, the sounds will have to tell pedestrians that the car is intending to slow down, long before the car actually has to slow down.