Published: July 15, 2014 | Germany
Mercedes-Benz, robotics experts and linguists discuss how people can communicate with autonomous vehicles in the future. Traffic in the city of the future will be largely dominated by cars that drive themselves. Beyond the technical and legal aspects, the automotive manufacturer is looking very closely at social issues in this context.
The fact that cars are able to perform more and more tasks autonomously, meaning that they are gradually becoming mobile robots. This will not just lead to changes in motoring itself, but; the traffic conditions on the whole will change, too. Mercedes-Benz looks at much more than just the technical issues when developing autonomous cars.
This is the future, says Mercedes, and the European car maker is already working with robotics experts to develop a new ‘language’ that will allow humans to communicate with their cars, and vice versa. Mercedes-Benz has revealed its work and research to be the world’s first mainstream car maker to deliver a self-driving car, possibly as early as 2020.
The idea that motorists will be able to switch the car to self-drive mode, kick back and have a little kip or catch up on work or social media is not new, but Benz is already looking further down the road, so to speak, where owners can use hand signals to start their cars and even command them to meet further down the road.
Benz’s Research and Futurology department recently met with robotics experts in Germany to discuss ways people could order their cars around, and hand gestures recognised by a multitude of sensors many cars already have, is one such example.
Therefore, Mercedes-Benz has joined forces with Ars Electronica Futurelab to create an “experimentation field” capable of testing various forms of interaction between humans and kinetic robots using prototypes. In a test setting, three interactive quadcopters were hailed, stopped or steered in a certain direction using gesture control or a haptic control object, for instance. This gave an initial idea of what co-existence between humans and autonomous machines could feel like in the shared space of the future.
Mercedes-Benz is convinced that what seems a long way off can quickly become a reality, believing that it is essential to develop a shared interaction language to enable functioning social “human-machine cooperation” in the traffic of the future. The automotive manufacturer will continue to work towards this goal.
The German car maker is not alone in its endeavour to push ahead with autonomous vehicle robotics and related technologies, with dozens of other companies – not all of them car manufacturers – testing self-driving systems in cars.
Video showing how ‘Mercedes-Benz’ is teaching autonomous cars to speak: