Designing the Communication with Automated Vehicles: The Case of Elderly
PHILIP JOISTEN, NINA THEOBALD, SARAH S. SCHWINDT, JONAS WALTER, and BETTINA
ABENDROTH, Technical University of Darmstadt, Germany
To communicate perception of and intent to other road users, implicit and explicit forms of communication for automated vehicles
(AVs) are currently under research and development. Despite being a relevant group for road safety, the requirements of elderly
pedestrians are not suciently reected in current communication concepts. Age-related impairments of sensory, cognitive and motor
abilities of elderly pedestrians are presented and their relevance for design criteria of implicit and explicit forms of communication for
AVs derived. The specication of design criteria presented in this paper allows further research to examine the design of implicit and
explicit communication for AVs with elderly pedestrians.
Additional Key Words and Phrases: elderly pedestrians, automated vehicles, human-machine interaction, communication, age-related
As the proportion of elderly people (age 65 and older) in western countries is increasing [
], there is a growing
interest regarding the mobility needs of this demographic group [
]. Walking as a pedestrian is one common mode of
transportation for elderly people [
]. Among all road users, pedestrians represent an especially vulnerable group in
road trac [
]. While elderly people represent 20% of the EU population they account for 47% of all pedestrians’ deaths
in the EU [
], making them a critical age group regarding road safety. Aging brings greater diculties in crossing the
road especially in complex trac scenarios such as two-way roads [
]. Diculties in road-crossing behavior of
the elderly have been attributed to age-related declines in sensory, cognitive and/or motor abilities [16,41].
Today, road crossings by pedestrians can be accompanied by the interaction with human drivers, which is character-
ized by an exchange of implicit (e.g. deceleration, gait) and explicit (e.g. hand gestures) signals [
]. In doing so road
users communicate perception of and intention to other road users in their environment [
]. With automated vehicles
(AVs) in the urban transportation system new challenges arise , one of them being the communication of AVs with
other road users [
]. While research has focused on designing implicit and explicit forms of communication for
AVs [e.g. 1,48], elderly people have only seldom been the user group of design and evaluation [e.g. 26,34,39,44].
This paper highlights the gap between current design concepts of implicit and explicit communication for AVs
and the requirements of elderly pedestrians. Therefore, age-related impairments of elderly pedestrians are described
(section 2) and their relevance for current developments in implicit and explicit forms of communication for AVs derived
(section 3). This (brief) review shall inform further research examining the design of communication between elderly
people and AVs by deriving research gaps in literature (section 4).
2 AGE-RELATED IMPAIREMENTS OF ELDERLY PEDESTRIANS
To ensure safe road-crossing decisions, pedestrians must “share their attention, select the most appropriate information
and inhibit the information that is non relevant” [
, p. 136], followed by the execution of an action to cross the road.
Authors’ address: Philip Joisten, email@example.com; Nina Theobald, firstname.lastname@example.org; Sarah S. Schwindt, email@example.com-
darmstadt.de; Jonas Walter, firstname.lastname@example.org; Bettina Abendroth, email@example.com, Technical University of Darmstadt,
Department of Mechanical Engineering, Institute of Ergnomics and Human Factors, Otto-Berndt-Straße 2, Darmstadt, 64287, Germany.
2 Joisten et al.
Thus, participation as a pedestrian in road trac requires the integration of sensory, cognitive and motor abilities
2.1 Sensory abilities
The visual and auditory perception are of great relevance in road-crossing decisions of pedestrians [
]. Known age-
related deteriorations of visual perception are the decline of central and dynamic visual acuity [
] with the latter
being of particular relevance for motion perception [
]. Moreover, the aging eyes’ impaired accommodation hinders
their ability to adapt between focusing near and far [
]. While contrast sensitivity as well as color discrimination
are reduced, glare sensitivity is increased [
]. Since the interaction of the foveal and peripheral visual eld forms
the basis for visual orientation, age-related narrowing of the “Useful Field of View” must be considered as well [
With regard to auditory perception, the elderly person’s ability to perceive and locate acoustic signals and to lter out
unwanted sounds is hampered [18,51].
Age-related declines in sensory abilities have been shown to impact road-crossing decisions of pedestrians [
The visual perception is necessary to perceive objects at a distance, to recognize signs, signals and other road users and
to correctly estimate speeds. Because of their limited sensory abilities, elderly people have diculties in estimating the
time-of-arrival (TTA) of approaching objects and cars [4,50], potentially leading to dangerous crossing decisions.
2.2 Cognitive abilities
Cognitive abilities refer to skills such as attention, information processing and the ability to reect and represent
memory content [
]. Elderly people need more time to assess a stimulus’ contextual relevance and are easier and longer
distracted by irrelevant stimuli due to impaired inhibition [
]. Having diculty in exibly distributing attention
between two tasks, maintaining a prioritized focus and switching between them, situations requiring divided attention
pose problems for the elderly [
]. Combined with the age-related reduction of a person’s limited working memory
] and the reduced speed of information processing [
], the search for target stimuli in complex environments under
time constraints is impeded .
Due to age-related declines in cognitive abilities, elderly pedestrians are more likely to have diculties in the decision
making process when crossing a road, especially under time pressure [
]. Related gap-selection issues of elderly
] are also attributed to decreasing cognitive abilities that pedestrians need to focus on relevant
information and to make timely, correct decisions .
2.3 Motor abilities
Changes in the bone, joint, ligament and muscle apparatus have eects on mobility, speed of movement, balance,
coordination and strength [
]. A decrease of muscle strength of up to 30-40% over the lifespan [
] and a decrease
in mobility of about 3-5% per decade [
] reduce the elderly person’s ability, power, controllability and precision of
movement execution [
]. With increasing age, sensomotoric tasks like everyday movement patterns require more
conscious control and cognitive resources, limiting the capacity to perform multiple activities simultaneously .
Elderly pedestrians display slower walking speeds while crossing a road [
] whereby walking time is a relevant
factor to predict the safety of pedestrian crossing behavior [
]. Diculties to adapt their walking speed to prevailing
trac conditions further explain gap-selection problems of the elderly [15,16].
Designing the Communication with Automated Vehicles: The Case of Elderly Pedestrians 3
3 DESIGN CONSIDERATIONS FOR THE COMMUNICATION BETWEEN AUTOMATED VEHICLES AND
While research on age-related impairments and their inuence on the behavior of elderly pedestrians exists, little
research has been done regarding the communication and interaction between AVs and elderly pedestrians. Nevertheless,
initial studies have shown that light signals on AVs (light bar on the rooftop) were assessed more positively by elderly
study identied the preference of elderly people for multimodal designs (combination of visual and auditory signals) of
external Human-Machine Interfaces (eHMIs, e.g. light signals or displays on AVs) but could not nd any dierence
in reported user experience (using the UEQ [
]) between younger (20-30 years old) and elderly pedestrians [
Furthermore, a video analysis revealed dierences in road user behavior of older people when interacting with an
AV, with older pedestrians (aged 55 years and above) stopping more often to give priority to the AV [
]. This result
was supported by a simulation experiment in which older pedestrians (aged 40-69 years) were more hesitant about
interacting with an AV when crossing a road .
While these studies show that there are age-related dierences both in subjective assessment as well as behavior
when interacting with AVs, none of the above-mentioned research explicitly considered age-related impairments
of pedestrians in the design of implicit and explicit forms of communication for AVs. Table 1compiles age-related
impairments and resulting diculties of elderly pedestrians and matches them with the most relevant design criteria of
current developments for the communication design of AVs. Research on older drivers served as a basis to assign design
criteria to age-related impairments of pedestrians [e.g.
]. Further, the relevance of age-related impairments, resulting
diculties of elderly pedestrians and signicance of design criteria were discussed in two structured feedbacks during
the preparation of this position paper.
Table 1. Age-related impairments of elderly pedestrians and their relevance for designing pedestrian-AV-communication
Age-related impairments Diculties of elderly pedestrians Most relevant design criteria
Central acuity Object perception, sign and signal recognition
Dynamic acuity Motion perception, TTA and speed estimation
Accommodation Change of focus between near and far objects
Contrast sensitivity Distinguish between objects and backgrounds Modality, coding, position
Color discrimination Distinguish between colors of signals
Glare sensitivity Loss of central acuity in bright light
Hearing Hearing loss, locating of acoutic signals
Inhibition Suppression of irrelevant information
Selective attention Concentration on a certain stimuli in the environment
Divided attention Attend dierent stimuli at the same time Content, coding,
Working memory Amount of available cognitive resources to store information perspective, timing
Speed of information processing Making timely decisions
Decision making under time pressure Making correct decisions (e.g. gap-selection)
Movement execution Speed of walking and head rotation Content, timing, position
4 Joisten et al.
Relevant design criteria determining the communication between AVs and pedestrians are the content road users
are exchanging [
] and the timing of the communication [
], e.g. the starting point of deceleration to convey a
]. Furthermore, explicit forms of communication (via eHMIs) include the criteria of modality [
(e.g. ego- vs. allocentric) [
], coding of information (e.g. form, size, color, frequency and amplitude) [
position on the vehicle [2,20].
Because of declines in sensory abilities elderly pedestrians have diculties to perceive objects at a distance and
correctly estimate speeds [
]. However, adaptation in speed is a main transmitter of implicit forms of communication
of vehicles [
]. Having diculties with this communication form, elderly pedestrians might benet more from eHMIs
(e.g. visual and/or auditory stimuli). But also in the design of explicit forms of communication of dierent modalities,
coding and positioning of information transmission must be adapted to age-related impairments of sensory abilities
(e.g. decline of central acuity).
Due to declines in cognitive abilities, elderly pedestrians have diculties to focus on relevant information, to exibly
distribute their attention and to make timely, correct road-crossing decisions [
]. To enable elderly pedestrians to
process the information conveyed correctly and in a timely manner, the information must be presented in an easily
graspable form being the result of careful decisions in the relevant design criteria of content, coding and perspective.
Another important design criteria to be considered here is the timing of communication [
]. Elderly pedestrians
could benet of an early communication onset, relieving them from decision making under time pressure.
Declines in motor abilites of elderly pedestrians are related to diculties of adapting a chosen road crossing strategy
]. In terms of content, AVs should therefore avoid communication that forces elderly pedestrians to (rapidly) adjust
their current road crossing strategy. In addition, the immobility of the elderly people’s neck must be considered when
determining the information position. Finally, an AV needs to have a high contextual understanding of its environment
in order to take the elderly pedestrians’ lower walking speeds into account and to give them enough time to execute
their preferred strategy.
Despite being a relevant group for pedestrian road safety, current developments of implicit and explicit forms of
communication for AVs have neglected the requirements of elderly pedestrians. Age-related impairments contribute to
diculties of elderly pedestrians when crossing a road [
] but this has not been cooperated yet in any communication
designs for AVs. The specication of design criteria presented in this paper allows further research to examine the
design of implicit and explicit communication for AVs with elderly pedestrians.
Elderly pedestrians seem to perceive AVs as useful [
] or even less risky than being around human-operated trac
]. In order to increase the chances of improving road safety of elderly pedestrians, the human-oriented design
approach for the elderly pedestrian population should be enhanced and pursued. Further research could investigate
compensation strategies for age-related impairments [
] and self-regulation behavior of elderly pedestrians [
their interaction with AVs.
This research was funded by research project @CITY-AF, carried out at the request of the Federal Ministry for Economic
Aairs and Energy (BMWi), under research project No. 19A18003M. The authors are solely responsible for the content.
Designing the Communication with Automated Vehicles: The Case of Elderly Pedestrians 5
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