Autonomous Vehicle Communication Strategies Modeled in Virtual Reality

Autonomous vehicles (AVs) hold promise to help improve transportation efficiency, safety, equity, and environmental impacts. However, before these benefits can be realized, the technology must be properly adopted. For at least a few fleet generations, there will be a transition period in which both human-driven vehicles and AVs share the road. In addition to human drivers, we can expect pedestrians and bicyclists to continue to share street space with AVs. How will AVs and human users of the road interact and communicate, and how will this impact perception and behavior outcomes? Human perceptions of AVs are important because trust of these new technologies is integral to their successful integration into the transportation system. Recent research shows that many people are still hesitant of sharing the road with AVs. However, improved AV communication has been linked with increased trust and acceptance. Understanding behavior in the interaction of humans and AVs is important for two types of outcomes: safety and operations. Because approximately 94% of motor vehicle crashes can be attributed to human error, we are being presented with an incredible opportunity to improve traffic safety outcomes. However, to realize these benefits, we need to ensure that users properly interact with one another. In terms of operations, traffic engineers use microsimulation software to model traffic flows on our streets. This software is built off decades of research into the interactions and behaviors of different system users. But with a new type of user on the street, how will these assumptions change? What if it takes an extra second for a pedestrian to interact with an AV versus a traditional human-driven vehicle? What if human drivers require an extra second of gap acceptance with AVs? While seemingly small on the individual scale, these changes can have outsized implications for the operations of a transportation system. To understand the above research questions, the research team will have human participants interact with AVs in a virtual reality (VR) environment. Participants will act as both pedestrians and drivers. The AVs will have a variety of communication interfaces based on those designed and proposed by different AV companies. The team will measure participant behavior through movement tracking during the VR trials to understand participant interaction time and visual focus. The team will administer a survey after the trials to understand how well participants understood and how much they trusted the different AV communication strategies. This will allow us to understand how to improve perceptions, trust, and acceptance, if/how behavior will change, and which communication strategy is most effective. As there is currently no standard AV communication strategy, this is a vitally important and timely topic. AVs stand to provide many benefits. However, in order to ensure that these benefits are realized, we need to better understand their interaction with human users of the road.


  • English


  • Status: Completed
  • Funding: $ 120000
  • Contract Numbers:


  • Sponsor Organizations:

    Office of the Assistant Secretary for Research and Technology

    University Transportation Centers Program
    Department of Transportation
    Washington, DC  United States  20590
  • Managing Organizations:

    Transportation Consortium of South-Central States (Tran-SET)

    Louisiana State University
    Baton Rouge, LA  United States  70803
  • Project Managers:

    Mousa, Momen

  • Performing Organizations:

    University of New Mexico, Albuquerque

    Department of Civil Engineering
    Albuquerque, NM  United States  87131-0001
  • Principal Investigators:

    Ferenchak, Nick

  • Start Date: 20200801
  • Expected Completion Date: 20220201
  • Actual Completion Date: 0
  • USDOT Program: University Transportation Centers Program

Subject/Index Terms

Filing Info

  • Accession Number: 01757538
  • Record Type: Research project
  • Source Agency: Transportation Consortium of South-Central States (Tran-SET)
  • Contract Numbers: 69A3551747106
  • Files: UTC, RIP
  • Created Date: Nov 11 2020 9:04AM