A world where we share the road with cars driven by computers will take some getting used to.

In response, companies working on self-driving cars are looking at ways of making the transition as smooth as possible, by helping to gain the trust of the public.

One of the companies is Jaguar Land Rover, which has developed a system that projects the intended path of a self-driving car onto the road in front using lights. This extra bit of information would prove not only useful to other motorists but also other road users, such as cyclists and pedestrians.

For now, the system can show when a self-driving car is coming to a stop or making a turn. For a stop, a series of lines is projected directly in front of the vehicle. The gaps between the lines gradually shorten as the vehicle comes to a stop. For turns, the lines fan out in the direction of the travel.

Path projection system for self-driving cars

Path projection system for self-driving cars

A demonstration was recently conducted using self-driving pods involved in the three-year Autodrive project in the United Kingdom, which concluded late last year. The government-supported project sought to identify how self-driving cars could be safely integrated in urban environments.

The demonstration also involved Jaguar Land Rover's “virtual eyes” system unveiled last August. The virtual eyes are designed to make eye contact with pedestrians to signal intent of the self-driving car.

“The trials are about understanding how much information a self-driving vehicle should share with a pedestrian to gain their trust,” Jaguar Land Rover Future Mobility Research Manager Pete Bennett said in a statement. “Just like any new technology, humans have to learn to trust it, and when it comes to autonomous vehicles, pedestrians must have confidence they can cross the road safely.”

Jaguar Land Rover is developing its own self-driving system, both partial and fully automated. The automaker's long-term goal is to make self-driving cars viable in the widest range situations, including in off-road conditions and with inclement weather.