MassRobotics recently held their third meeting for SAAM (Socially Aware Autonomous Mobility), inviting guest speakers Vaidehi Patil from Carnegie Mellon University and Avi Block from Motional to present their latest research titled “Safe to Approach: Insights on Autonomous Vehicle Interaction Protocols with First Responders.” The event was attended by 25+ members from four countries.  The attendees were from academia, industry giants, and public policy (city and federal), all interested in the latest developments in autonomous vehicle technology.

Patil and Block’s research provides fascinating insights into the interactions between first responders and autonomous vehicles. The study is particularly significant as it is one of the first published research on this topic, which has important implications for the safety of first responders and the effectiveness of autonomous vehicle technology.

Fifteen first responders were interviewed for the initial part of the study, providing insights on a range of topics, including the challenges faced by first responders when approaching an autonomous vehicle, the importance of clear communication between the vehicle and the responder, and the need for standardized interaction protocols. The researchers also brainstormed solutions, developed prototypes, and tested them with the first responders. One of the key takeaways from the presentation was the importance of developing standardized interaction protocols for autonomous vehicles and first responders. Standardized protocols could help to ensure that first responders know how to approach an autonomous vehicle safely and efficiently, reducing the risk of accidents and improving response times.

Discussion during the presentation touched on several topics:

  • Challenges of intuitive interface design vs. a learnable interface 
  • Clarity of the message for intended and unintended interactors 
  • Interactions with passengers on board the AV during an emergency scenario are likely more complex
  • Roles of a tele-monitor during emergency scenarios.
  • Physical interfaces designed with today‚Äôs familiar shapes may not be as effective in the future

The research has been accepted for publication at the upcoming ACM/IEEE Human Robot Interaction Conference in Stockholm.  

Overall, the third SAAM meeting was a great success, providing valuable insights into the interactions between first responders and autonomous vehicles. As autonomous vehicle technology continues to evolve, it is crucial that we consider the safety and effectiveness of these vehicles in emergency situations. The insights from this research  will undoubtedly inform the development of future protocols and guidelines for autonomous vehicle interactions with first responders.

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