Introduction: In current urban traffic, pedestrians attempting to cross the road at un-signalized locations are thought to mostly use implicit communication, such as deceleration cues, to interpret a vehicle's intention to yield. There is less reliance on explicit driver- or vehicle-based messages, such as hand/head movements, or flashing lights/beeping horns. With the impending deployment of Automated Vehicles (AV), especially those at SAE Level 4 and 5, where the driver is no longer in control of the vehicle, there has been a surge in interest in the value of new forms of communication for AVs, for example, via different types of external Human Machine Interfaces (eHMIs). However, there is still much to be understood about how quickly a novel eHMI affects pedestrian crossing decisions, and whether it provides any additional aid, above and beyond implicit/kinematic information from the vehicle. The aim of this between-participant study, funded by the H2020 interACT project, was to investigate how the combination of kinematic information from a vehicle (e.g., Speed and Deceleration), and eHMI designs, play a role in assisting the crossing decision of pedestrians in a cave-based pedestrian simulator. Method: Using an existing, well-recognized, message for yielding (Flashing Headlights - FH) as a benchmark, this study also investigated how quickly a novel eHMI (Slow Pulsing Light Band – SPLB) was learned. To investigate the effect of eHMI visibility on crossing decisions, the distance at which each eHMI was perceivable was also measured. Results: Results showed that, compared to SPLB, the FH led to earlier crossings during vehicle deceleration, especially at lower approaching speeds, and smaller time gaps. However, although FH was visible earlier than SPLB, this visibility does not appear to be the only reason for earlier crossings, with message familiarity thought to play a role. Participants were found to learn the meaning conveyed by FH relatively quickly, crossing around 1 second earlier in its presence (compared to the no eHMI condition), across the three blocks of trials. On the other hand, it took participants at least one block of 12 trials for the new SPLB signal to affect crossing, which only accelerated crossing initiations by around 200 ms, compared to the no eHMI condition. The role of comprehension, long-term exposure, and familiarity of novel messages in this context is therefore important, if AVs are to provide safe, trustworthy communication messages, which will enhance traffic flow and efficiency.
- Cave-based pedestrian simulator
- User experience