How will driverless cars ‘talk’ to pedestrians? Waymo has a few ideas

For years, developers have been working on ways for driverless cars to communicate intent to other road users, either through audio recordings or visual cues. Today, Waymo says it wants to be one of the first companies to put some of these methods into practice.

The Alphabet-owned company’s driverless Jaguar I-Pace vehicles will use their roof domes, which are wrapped in LED displays, to communicate messages to other road users. For now, the company is going with just two messages: for pedestrians in front of the vehicle, shifting grey and white rectangles meant to communicate that the vehicle is yielding to them, and for drivers behind the vehicle, a yellow pedestrian symbol to let them know there’s a pedestrian crossing.

The symbols join other visual and audio cues that Waymo employs to “talk” to other road users. The company has used its roof dome to display the initials of the customer who is hailing the ride and to signal to cyclists that a passenger intends to open the door. Waymo also uses external audio alerts to communicate with emergency responders or to explain what the vehicle is going to do next, like rerouting.

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