Zach Noonan Publishes Paper on Driver-Pedestrian Interactions in Accident Analysis and Prevention

by Adam Felts

When pedestrians and drivers encounter each other on the road, a delicate game of communication and negotiation ensues. Part of that communication is explicit – hand waves, eye contact, flashing headlights – but a significant aspect of these negotiations also involves even more subtle cues.

A study led by AgeLab postdoctoral associate Zach Noonan examines how changes in speed as a form of signaling from drivers – called kinematics – are used to communicate intentions in encounters with pedestrians. He and his co-authors looked particularly at how these behaviors differ in varying contexts, comparing driver-pedestrian interactions at protected crossings, designated crossings, and undesignated crossings.

Data was collected as part of the AgeLab’s AVT naturalistic driving study. Cameras and instruments inside of study participants’ vehicles monitored their driving behavior during interactions with pedestrians, including changes in speed. Differences arose based on the type of crossing, with an exchange of stronger kinematic cues occurring at undesignated crossings.

These findings may have implications for the design of autonomous vehicles, as we better understand the subtleties of how human drivers and pedestrians communicate with each other to facilitate safe interactions on the road. This study was conducted in collaboration with Toyota CSRC and is part of a broad research area focusing on interactions with vulnerable road users.

Read and learn more here.

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About the Author

Photo of Adam Felts
Adam Felts

Adam Felts is a researcher and writer at the MIT AgeLab. Currently he is involved in research on the experiences of family caregivers and the future of financial advice. He also manages the AgeLab blog and newsletter. He received his Master's in Fine Arts in Creative Writing from Boston University in 2014 and his Master's of Theological Studies from Boston University in 2019.

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