The Transit Connect van used for the trial would indicate its behavior using signals including a slow white pulse for yielding, a rapid blinking for accelerating from a stop, and staying solid if it’s actively in self-driving mode. The bar is positioned roughly where a driver’s eye line would be, to try to catch the attention of those around it who would look in its direction. Ford’s chosen signals for the project are simple, but they’re intended to be, and they’re designed to not just replicate existing vehicle signalling apparatus, like break lights and turn signals, but to fill in gaps where we currently communicate via subtle gestures, eye contact and other less obvious mechanisms.
Ford and VTTI conducted VR testing to discover that these definitely need to be learned – people need a few different exposures before they clue in. But there’s potential for them to become widely accepted, provided they’re repeated often and consistently.