In a world in which we are all about to become back-seat drivers, autonomous vehicle developers are working to let passengers know what the car sees and comprehends as it moves.
Many surveys over the past few years have shown that consumers are skeptical about the safety of self-driving vehicles. An Axios/Survey Monkey poll in October showed that about two-thirds of those surveyed said they felt unsafe around autonomous vehicles. A AAA survey in May showed similar results, with 73 percent saying they felt too unsafe to ride in self-driving cars and 63 percent saying they felt unsafe near them.
Auto makers and suppliers know that one of the first consumer battles they need to win will be for the trust of passengers and pedestrians.
"It's about gaining trust, and the way that we do that is by making sure there are a lot of communications in a lot of different ways back to the person in the car," said Tisha Johnson, Volvo's vice president of interior design. "In a good relationship, over-communication is a good thing."
Cars will also need to communicate with pedestrians and other vehicles on the road, especially in the period when human-driven cars and self-driving vehicles share the road. But if companies are coming up with their own solutions, the result could be confusion for everyone, said Aine Denari, senior vice president of planning and business development for ZF.
"This is an emerging area, and we need to drive toward standardizations," Denari said.
Here's how some companies are tackling the issue:
Chinese startup Borgward is going all in on ensuring that its artificial intelligence is front and center in its upcoming autonomous vehicles.
"Right now, it's a black box for riders," said Joe Xing, Borgward's head of AI. "We want our riders to feel that they are very safe inside our cars."
Borgward plans to make its self-driving technology, especially its prediction capabilities, known to cabin occupants. One of Xing's examples is a self-driving car—Xing calls it a carbot—that notices another vehicle engaging in dangerous behavior.