Human Interpretation of Goal-Directed Autonomous Car Behavior

AbstractPeople increasingly interact with different types of autonomous robotic systems, ranging from humanoid social robots to driverless vehicles. But little is known about how people interpret the behavior of such systems, and in particular if and how they attribute cognitive capacities and mental states to them. In a study concerning people's interpretations of autonomous car behavior, building on our previous research on human–robot interaction, participants were presented with (1) images of cars – either with or without a driver – exhibiting various goal-directed traffic behaviors, and (2) brief verbal descriptions of that behavior. They were asked to rate the extent to which these behaviors were intentional and judge the plausibility of different types of causal explanations. The results indicate that people (a) view autonomous car behavior as goal-directed, (b) discriminate between intentional and unintentional autonomous car behaviors, and (c) view the causes of autonomous and human traffic behaviors similarly, in terms of both intentionality ascriptions and behavior explanations. However, there was considerably lower agreement in participant ratings of the driverless behaviors, which might indicate an increased difficulty in interpreting goal-directed behavior of autonomous systems.

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