Communicating the intention of an automated vehicle to pedestrians: The contributions of eHMI and vehicle behavior

Debargha (Dave) Dey (Corresponding author), Andrii Matviienko, Melanie Berger, B. Pfleging, Marieke H. Martens, Jacques M.B. Terken

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External Human-Machine Interfaces (eHMIs) are expected to bridge the communication gap between an automated vehicle (AV) and pedestrians to replace the missing driver-pedestrian interaction. However, the relative impact of movement-based implicit communication and explicit communication with the aid of eHMIs on pedestrians has not been studied and empirically evaluated. In this study, we pit messages from an eHMI against different driving behaviors of an AV that yields to a pedestrian to understand whether pedestrians tend to pay more attention to the motion dynamics of the car or the eHMI in making road-crossing decisions. Our contributions are twofold: we investigate (1) whether the presence of eHMIs has any objective effect on pedestrians’ understanding of the vehicle’s intent, and (2) how the movement dynamics of the vehicle affect the perception of the vehicle intent and interact with the impact of an eHMI. Results show that (1) eHMIs help in convincing pedestrians of the vehicle’s yielding intention, particularly when the speed of the vehicle is slow enough to not be an obvious threat, but still fast enough to raise a doubt about a vehicle’s stopping intention, and (2) pedestrians do not blindly trust the eHMI: when the eHMI message and the vehicle’s movement pattern contradict, pedestrians fall back to movement-based cues. Our results imply that when explicit communication (eHMI) and implicit communication (motion-dynamics and kinematics) are in alignment and work in tandem, communication of the AV’s yielding intention can be facilitated most effectively. This insight can be useful in designing the optimal interaction between AVs and pedestrians from a user-centered design perspective when driver-centric communication is not available.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)123-141
Number of pages19
JournalIT - Information Technology
Issue number2
Early online date4 Nov 2020
Publication statusPublished - 8 May 2021


  • Automated vehicles
  • EHMI
  • Explicit communication
  • Implicit communication
  • Pedestrian
  • VRU
  • Vulnerable road user


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