Mercedes 'Co-operative Car' concept showcases car-to-pedestrian communication

New Mercedes 'Co-operative Car' development vehicle is equipped with lights and sensors, enabling subtle co-operation with pedestrians

Mercedes Benz has showcased a new development vehicle, which is currently using to study how pedestrians interact with and react to highly automated cars. 

Called the Co-operative Car, it’s a modified and highly automated S-Class saloon equipped with a new suite of sensors, lighting strips and directional speakers. Cars like this are currently being used in Daimler and Bosch’s Automated Valet Parking project in Stuttgart, but the Co-operative Car takes things a step further, with several additions allowing it to communicate with those on foot. 

Fully autonomous cars may never be allowed, says BMW boss

Mercedes says its latest research shows that pedestrians are far more comfortable around autonomous vehicles when such cars are clearly marked out. However, vehicles with no driver behind the wheel at all could pose a particular challenge if they become a reality in the future. 

With no one in the driver’s seat to lock eyes with, pedestrians will need a new way to develop trust with traffic. That’s where the suite of lights equipped on the Co-operative car come into play.

A turquoise aura signals that the vehicle is driving autonomously. Mercedes picked this colour as it currently isn’t used on the road in a conventional capacity. For instance, dark blue would clash with emergency service vehicles, red would clash with traffic lights, and yellow would clash with indicators. It’s a neutral colour, one the brand thinks is best suited for its new car-to-pedestrian language and one it hopes will become the industry standard for all autonomous vehicles equipped with similar signals.

On top of the Co-operative Car sits an array of turquoise LED strips, with a rounded strip sitting in each corner of the roof. The adaptive LED strips use sensors to monitor pedestrian activity, and form two crude sets of eyes – a pair at the front and a pair at the rear.

The ‘pupils’ of the eyes can track and follow those stood around the vehicle, allowing pedestrians to know that the Co-operative car has spotted them. They can issue non-verbal instructions or suggestions too, such rolling or nudging in a certain direction to tell pedestrians it is safe for them to cross the road.

The car can detect human faces too. If it notices that a pedestrian hasn’t noticed the Co-operative Car, it can use a directional speaker to channel a subtle audio nudge right at them.

Two more lighting strips are placed at the top of the windscreen and the rear window. These pulsate, the rate decreasing if the car is slowing down, and increasing if the car is accelerating. Constant rapid flashing of the turquoise lights indicates that the Co-operative Car is about to move.

A ‘wake-up’ procedure using the standard fit air-suspension sees the whole car essentially rise from its slumber. Like the turquoise eyes, Mercedes says it makes the car resemble a living object, allowing humans to understand the vehicle far more intuitively.

Speaking to Auto Express, Daimler futurologist Alexander Mankowsky said that developing a common language for car-to-pedestrian interaction is the next big challenge for companies developing autonomous vehicles.

“The discussions about the basics [among manufacturers] have already begun. Broader ideas, such as the wake up procedure, could be open to negotiation in the next five to six years”, he explained.

Read our full in-depth review of the Mercedes S-Class here...

Recommended

New 2022 Mercedes EQE electric saloon to rival Tesla Model S
Mercedes EQE

New 2022 Mercedes EQE electric saloon to rival Tesla Model S

The all-electric Mercedes EQE saloon will below the EQS limousine when it arrives in 2022 and our exclusive images preview how it could look
15 Oct 2020
New Mercedes Vision EQXX prototype electric car teased with 750-mile range
Mercedes

New Mercedes Vision EQXX prototype electric car teased with 750-mile range

The Mercedes Vision EQXX prototype promises the world’s longest electric car range, with teaser images hinting at ‘Shanghai to Beijing’ or ‘Nice to St…
6 Oct 2020
New flagship Mercedes EQS SUV and electrified G-Glass confirmed
Mercedes EQA concept - front static
Mercedes

New flagship Mercedes EQS SUV and electrified G-Glass confirmed

Three new Mercedes EQ models, plus electrified Maybach, AMG and rugged G-Class models on the way
6 Oct 2020
New 2021 Mercedes EQS electric limo spotted at the Nurburgring
Mercedes EQS

New 2021 Mercedes EQS electric limo spotted at the Nurburgring

The Mercedes EQS is continuing its development programme, and these latest images show the electric saloon on track
30 Sep 2020

Most Popular

New Audi RS e-tron GT electric supercar to boast around 700bhp
Audi e-tron GT

New Audi RS e-tron GT electric supercar to boast around 700bhp

The hot Audi RS e-tron GT will use a triple-electric motor set-up and our exclusive images preview how it could look
16 Oct 2020
BMW adds Android Auto to 750k cars in huge iDrive software update
News

BMW adds Android Auto to 750k cars in huge iDrive software update

BMW is installing the latest OS 7 operating system to its iDrive infotainment systems over-the-air, bringing new functionality to three quarters of a …
16 Oct 2020
New 2021 Dacia Spring revealed as Europe’s cheapest electric car
Dacia

New 2021 Dacia Spring revealed as Europe’s cheapest electric car

The Dacia Spring will take on electric city car rivals like the SEAT Mii Electric with a sub-£20,000 asking price
15 Oct 2020