Mercedes has unveiled a concept that is believed to be the first of its kind – a car that can share empathetic emotions with humans.

A large barrier for autonomous vehicles is what’s known as the trust issue – essentially where we don’t trust a car with no human driver. Mercedes has said that empathy is a big part of this.

The German manufacturer is exploring this ‘informed trust’ with a new concept car based on its range-topping S-Class luxury saloon. Known as the cooperative vehicle, the car features 360-degree light signalling to indicate to pedestrians and drivers alike that the car is in an autonomous mode.

On the roof, lights appear to indicate the car’s next intentions. The lights can also move to alert someone of the S-Class’ presence, in the same way that a driver may make eye contact to another motorist or cyclist, for example. A whole suite of cameras are fitted to this S500 to enable this technology to work.

The lighting technology is particularly important, and has come out of research looking into how pedestrians react to autonomous vehicle lighting. Turquoise was chosen as the best colour for the autonomous driving from the research, with these findings now passed onto SAE International – an organisation tasked with looking at the future of mobility.

Alexander Mankowsky, a futurologist at Daimler, said: “People need to be able to quickly and reliably gauge what an autonomous vehicle is going to do next. The vehicle must therefore provide information about its intentions in a way that people can grasp immediately and intuitively.”

Ted Welford


November 26, 2018