Image: Jaguar Land Rover

If there is anything you flesh-bags known as “humans” love most, it is large, cold, unfeeling robots with unblinking, cow-like eyes and gaping maws that look like they’re trying to scream and scream and scream, but no sounds comes out. Deeply understanding this affection, Jaguar Land-Rover has built an autonomous pod-thing that brings all of that imagery to life.

Jaguar, naturally, feels that by directing the staring eyeballs straight at you, their irises burning two bagel-sized holes straight through your soul, we will learn to tolerate – nay, embrace - our inevitable replacement by the machines, is my understanding of the company’s press release:

Jaguar Land Rover has fitted ‘virtual eyes’ to intelligent pods to understand how humans will trust self-driving vehicles, as research studies suggest that as many as 63% of pedestrians worry about how safe it will be to cross the road in the future.

The friendly-faced ‘eye pods’ have a vital job: helping work out how much information future self-driving cars should share with users or pedestrians to ensure that people trust the technology.

As part of the engineering project, Jaguar Land Rover has enlisted the help of a team of cognitive psychologists to better understand how vehicle behaviour affects human confidence in new technology. The trust trials form part of Jaguar Land Rover’s government-supported UK Autodrive project.

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Yes, the machines will stare at you, and while they gather data about your every movement, your every hope, wish, or desire (to cross the street), they will summarily decide how much information about themselves they want to share with you:

The intelligent pods run autonomously on a fabricated street scene in Coventry, while the behaviour of pedestrians is analysed as they wait to cross the road. The ‘eyes’ have been devised by a team of advanced engineers, working in Jaguar Land Rover’s Future Mobility division. The pods seek out the pedestrian - appearing to ‘look’ directly at them - signalling to road users that it has identified them, and intends to take avoiding action.

Engineers record trust levels in the person before and after the pod makes ‘eye contact’ to find out whether it generates sufficient confidence that it would stop for them. 

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Pete Bennett, a man at JLR with the title of “Future Mobility Research Manager,” said in the press release that the goal is to figure out whether or not future self-driving cars need to actually notify everyone around them of their intentions, or if they can just inform the meat-sacks around them that their presence has been observed, recorded, and duly noted. Which is genuinely important, if self-driving cars are to ever actually happen, which they won’t.

This is a genuine picture provided by Jaguar Land Rover, which I have not altered in any way:

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Right now, I am screaming and screaming and screaming, but somehow, no sound is coming out.