Pedestrian Wearables for Interactions with Autonomous Vehicles

According to ACM, the Association of Computing Machinery, up to 30% of new cars are expected to be autonomous or self-driving vehicles by 2030. Their introduction raises a number of concerns for pedestrians, including the loss of driver cues. Several devices, known as external human-machine interfaces (eHMIs) have been designed to transmit vehicle intent and awareness information to pedestrians. However, many involve the use of vehicle and street infrastructure and personal feedback to pedestrians is limited.

In a recent publication, IALH Research Fellow Sowmya Somanath (Computer Science) and colleagues at the University of Victoria and the University of Calgary discuss the development of pedestrian wearables (clothing and accessories-based devices) “whose primary purpose is to alert pedestrians of relevant information such as oncoming [autonomous vehicles] and their intentions.”

In this project, five participants were asked to design at least three pedestrian-wearables. Participants considered the following in designing the devices:

Human movement – “participants proposed easily moldable devices that conformed to the shape of the human body”
Form – “devices were designed to be smooth to touch and easily moldable for seamless integration onto the wearer’s body while maintaining comfort and allowing for dynamic mobility”
Sensory interaction – “devices alerted at least one of [the following senses:] sight, hearing or touch, and activations were a result of communication received from autonomous vehicles”
Placement – where the devices are placed on users will likely “determine how well they will be received and adopted”
Accessibility – devices should be placed “in a somewhat conspicuous location while remaining accessible to the wearer at all times to ensure alerts [can] be easily recognized”
Proxemics – some designs considered “shared spaces among road users”; and
Attachment – the way in which the devices are worn should be similar to that type of clothing

The most commonly proposed wearables included squeezing socks, constricting bands, and alerting headphones. These specific devices were considered desirable “due to their hidden and unobtrusive nature and their adaptability to different individuals and environments.” Other designs included a light-projecting necklace, an inflating jacket, and a shape-changing scarf.

The researchers concluded that “pedestrian-wearables hold promise as technologies that serve to communicate between [autonomous vehicles] and pedestrians...[They] can take several forms and communicate using varied modalities, ensuring a …diverse range of pedestrians…can benefit from the information and make safe street crossing decisions.”

To read the full article, go to