Communication via motion - Suitability of automated vehicle movements to negotiate the right of way in road bottleneck scenarios

Appl Ergon. 2021 Apr 23;95:103438. doi: 10.1016/j.apergo.2021.103438. Online ahead of print.


The introduction of automated vehicles (AVs) into urban areas initially leads to mixed traffic, consisting of AVs, human drivers, and vulnerable road users. Since the AV's passenger is no longer actively involved in the driving task, there may be changes in the interaction between AVs and surrounding human road users. Therefore, it is essential for an AV to behave in a comprehensible manner in order to maintain or even enhance traffic efficiency and traffic safety. This work investigates the interaction of an AV and a simultaneously oncoming human driver at road bottlenecks due to double-parked vehicles on both sides of the road. Based on findings derived from AV-pedestrian interaction, comfort limits in terms of driving dynamics, and traffic observations, we designed nine AV movements to either yield the right of way or to insist on it by varying the AV's speed (maintain speed, one-step deceleration, two-step deceleration) and its lateral offset (no offset, close offset, distant offset). The different vehicle movements were evaluated with 34 participants in a driving simulator study. The results show participants' shorter passing times, fewer crashes, and significantly higher ratings of the AV's communication if the AV movement contained a lateral offset. In addition to the regular encounters, we analyzed the controllability of an automation failure and its aftereffect on participants' trust in AVs. The experience of the automation failure reduced the trust rating significantly. From the results we conclude that the AV should communicate the right of way not only via speed adjustments but also via the performance of a lateral offset to enhance traffic efficiency and safety. Moreover, a change in the AV's maneuver due to an automation failure must be avoided since it is not controllable by the human driver.

Keywords: Automated driving; Implicit communication; Movement design; Road bottleneck scenario.