Semcon, a Swedish-based product development company, has developed 'The Smiling Car', a fictional autonomous car concept that uses a digital smile to let pedestrians know it’s safe to cross the road while the 'driver' goes about their own business inside the car.
Demonstrated in the above video, the grille-mounted display is a horizontal line while the vehicle is in motion, and then ‘smiles’ when the vehicle comes to a stop at a crossing.
While the vehicles in the video are based on the Mazda 6 wagon, the lack of any brand acknowledgement suggests the concept is in its early stages and may not be limited to just one type of car.
Described as an “example of product development based on human behaviour”, the concept was created in response to concerns that driverless cars aren’t able to communicate with other road users and pedestrians.
Karin Eklund, head of user experience at Semcon, said: “The strength behind The Smiling Car is that we allow people to communicate in the way they are used to, instead of taking an unnecessary detour via technology”.
According to the company, eight out of 10 people seek eye contact with the driver before they cross the road - which could be lost with the introduction of autonomous vehicles.