Interaction between pedestrians and automated vehicles: A Wizard of Oz experiment

Ana Rodríguez Palmeiro*, S. Van der Kint, Luuk Vissers, Haneen Farah, Joost C.F. de Winter, Marjan Hagenzieker

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

107 Citations (Scopus)
124 Downloads (Pure)


Automated vehicles (AVs) will be introduced on public roads in the future, meaning that traditional vehicles and AVs will be sharing the urban space. There is currently little knowledge about the interaction between pedestrians and AVs from the point of view of the pedestrian in a real-life environment. Pedestrians may not know with which type of vehicle they are interacting, potentially leading to stress and altered crossing decisions. For example, pedestrians may show elevated stress and conservative crossing behavior when the AV driver does not make eye contact and performs a non-driving task instead. It is also possible that pedestrians assume that an AV would always yield (leading to short critical gaps). This study aimed to determine pedestrians’ crossing decisions when interacting with an AV as compared to when interacting with a traditional vehicle. We performed a study on a closed road section where participants (N = 24) encountered a Wizard of Oz AV and a traditional vehicle in a within-subject design. In the Wizard of Oz setup, a fake ‘driver’ sat on the driver seat while the vehicle was driven by the passenger by means of a joystick. Twenty scenarios were studied regarding vehicle conditions (traditional vehicle, ‘driver’ reading a newspaper, inattentive driver in a vehicle with “self-driving” sign on the roof, inattentive driver in a vehicle with “self-driving” signs on the hood and door, attentive driver), vehicle behavior (stopping vs. not stopping), and approach direction (left vs. right). Participants experienced each scenario once, in a randomized order. This allowed assessing the behavior of participants when interacting with AVs for the first time (no previous training or experience). Post-experiment interviews showed that about half of the participants thought that the vehicle was (sometimes) driven automatically. Measurements of the participants’ critical gap (i.e., the gap below which the participant will not attempt to begin crossing the street) and self-reported level of stress showed no statistically significant differences between the vehicle conditions. However, results from a post-experiment questionnaire indicated that most participants did perceive differences in vehicle appearance, and reported to have been influenced by these features. Future research could adopt more fine-grained behavioral measures, such as eye tracking, to determine how pedestrians react to AVs. Furthermore, we recommend examining the effectiveness of dynamic AV-to-pedestrian communication, such as artificial lights and gestures.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1005-1020
JournalTransportation Research Part F: Traffic Psychology and Behaviour
Publication statusPublished - 2018

Bibliographical note

Green Open Access added to TU Delft Institutional Repository ‘You share, we take care!’ – Taverne project Otherwise as indicated in the copyright section: the publisher is the copyright holder of this work and the author uses the Dutch legislation to make this work public.


  • Automated vehicles
  • Gap acceptance
  • Pedestrians
  • Perception
  • Road safety


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