These are still the early days for the human-machine interfaces (HMI) that will be crucial to the success of autonomous vehicles. And it’s unclear whether cross-industry standards will emerge regarding the application of autonomous technologies – not just in terms of functionality, but in the way that conceptual HMIs convey functionality to drivers / occupants.
Meanwhile, today’s ADAS technologies are beginning to inform automobile drivers of the safety benefits that new developments can bring, as well as helping them to become accustomed to the feeling of a car that is momentarily taking control. But are we, ourselves, running the risk of becoming un-connected from “connected” vehicles?
The Human Element
Within the automotive industry the latest generation of Driver-in-the-Loop (DIL) simulators provides a mechanism for exploring the intricate relationship between drivers / occupants with piloted and/or conveyance vehicles. This is accomplished by creating realistic and immersive human surroundings inside a laboratory – including visual, acoustic, haptic and tactile, and motion cues such as ride frequencies and vehicle dynamic inputs – all the feedbacks that allow real people to interact realistically with virtual vehicles and imagined systems.
These imagined vehicle concepts can then be placed into geo-specific or representative environments wherein everything imaginable can be explored – from roadway hazards to interactions with other intelligent objects such as cars, pedestrians, and advanced infrastructure elements. Not only does this provide a safe environment for exploring what might be otherwise considered dangerous scenarios, but it also provides a controlled, repeatable observation platform from which to gather objective measurements on human and vehicle behaviors.
Connected Car speaks with Ansible Motion about connecting people with cars
Using DIL simulators, the feedback loop of real people reacting to technologies – which are, in turn, responding to people's reactions – can be examined in a way that’s impossible to gauge accurately with Software-in-the-Loop (SIL) or Hardware-in-the-Loop (HIL) testing alone. In a sense, DIL simulation is a mechanism whereby the human touch can be brought back into the mix of core vehicle developments.
Who’s in Charge?
One example is in the handover of (pilot task) control. A handover from human to an artificial intelligence can create some problematic ‘corner cases’ near the edges of normal parameter mapping, but the switch from driverless control back to the human can sometimes present an even bigger challenge. What is the cognitive state of the human? Is he or she paying attention and/or ready to resume the (piloting) task? What if the driver is not yet ready to be a driver again when handover initiates? All of these possibilities must be studied.
Another example is the case where a (human) driver assumes that he or she is in full control, but an assistive or semi-autonomous system assumes that some intervention is required. This could range from a very subtle interference, to a very direct, counterintuitive one, perhaps based on a logical derivative of a known safety case. If the augmentation assists the human driver in a way that is startling or unexpected, how does the human then react? Will the startle response produce statistically measurable reactions from human drivers that can be used to inform the AI system? If so, a DIL simulator lab might be the only practical way to collect enough information to make informed system / controller logic decisions and test their effectiveness in advance of market deployment.
Practice Makes Perfect
In this and many other cases a controlled, repeatable laboratory environment that engages real people in the experimentation process becomes the ideal place to perform exploratory and comparative studies. Scenarios and conditions (both environmental and vehicular) can be created and modified as needed in order to gain statistical confidence in what would otherwise be a staggering array of possibilities. And no matter what the outcome of a particular experiment – good or bad, life-saving intervention or (virtual) collision, incident-inducer or scare – the test has been conducted in total safety via DIL simulation. An experiment ends calmly, and man and machine are ready to have another go, in search of solutions that will keep us connected – while making sure that we are actually staying in touch.
To learn more about how engineering class Driver-in-the-Loop (DIL) simulators are emerging as a primary vehicle development tool for the cars of tomorrow, download our FREE white paper, “Look Down the Road: Driving Simulator Technology & How Automotive Manufacturers will Benefit.”