Intel study explores what will get people to trust self-driving cars

If they build them, will you ride?

With tech and car companies throwing lots of money and manpower behind autonomous vehicles, Intel wanted to know what it would take to get people to trust self-driving cars. Some studies have shown that drivers fear and lack trust in the nascent technology.

So the Silicon Valley company has conducted what it calls a first-of-its-kind study and released its findings Thursday, detailing participants’ concerns about cars that can drive themselves.

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Study participants reported conflicting feelings about machines’ vs. humans’ judgment, whether the vehicles gave too many notifications and too much information, and whether the cars can communicate with riders.

In addition, some of the riders felt uneasy about riding in a car and not having anything to do but worry.

“I can’t reach the pedal,” said one of the women in Intel’s promotional video about the study.

Because of the uneasiness of some of the participants, they also discussed the possible removal of “legacy” designs in vehicles, such as steering wheels.

Intel, which says it wanted to start with a small group on purpose, had 10 people participate in a study at its self-driving test facility in Chandler, Arizona. They were given approximately 10-minute rides in a Lincoln MKZ, which had a human safety “driver” riding up front and a researcher sitting in back with the participants.

The participants — Intel called them a diverse group of randomly selected people who responded to a call the company put out online — shared their impressions and reactions with the company in video and audio interviews.

The trust study is the first to be released publicly by the chip giant’s Automated Driving Group, whose creation Intel announced in November. Among Intel’s moves in the self-driving realm since then is its $15.3 billion acquisition of Mobileye, the Jerusalem-based maker of camera systems for driverless vehicles. Intel announced that deal in March.

The study’s participants also expressed safety concerns about the autonomous systems while acknowledging “that their behavior as a driver was not always safe or by the book,” said Jack Weast, the chief systems architect of Intel’s ADG, in a blog post about the study.

Another issue that arose is one that has been brought up for as long as self-driving tech has been around: Who’s responsible?

“Parents liked the idea of transporting unaccompanied minors without a stranger/driver present in the vehicle,” Weast wrote. “However, participants were also concerned about the lack of accountability when there is no driver.”

Intel will be sharing what it learned with its partners in self-driving tech. Weast also said the company plans to conduct further studies with more participants, and with different scenarios. Intel spokeswoman Robin Holt said the company is not sharing the scope and timeline of future studies at this time.

Intel’s test was conducted in Arizona, but it has applied for a permit for self-driving testing in California and has plans to do testing elsewhere, Holt said.


Photo: Intel’s Advanced Vehicle Lab in Chandler, Arizona, shown in February 2017, equips Intel-owned vehicles with Intel processors, Intel architecture-powered servers, sensors, cameras, GPS, Lidar and radar. (Tim Herman/Intel)


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