Gap acceptance study of pedestrians crossing between platooning autonomous vehicles in a virtual environment

Roger Woodman, Ke Lu, Matthew D. Higgins, Simon Brewerton, Paul A. Jennings, Stewart Birrell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

35 Citations (Scopus)
180 Downloads (Pure)


Autonomous vehicles (AVs) operating in shared urban environments, often referred to as “pods”, will constantly have to interact with pedestrians. As a result, an effective strategy will be required for pods to continue operating, while in close proximity to people. This strategy could be in terms of active negotiation, where a pod identifies a person and gives way; or a more passive strategy, such as requiring pods to travel close together in platoons, in order to reduce the number of individual vehicle encounters. For this latter example, it is critical to understand how the spaces between pods and AVs in general are perceived by pedestrians, and what factors will persuade and dissuade crossing. Therefore, this paper seeks to understand this relationship, and presents results from a pedestrian gap acceptance study for platoons. To ensure the safety of participants, a virtual environment was used instead of real vehicles. The goal of the experiment described in this paper, is to understand the gap acceptance behaviour of participants, when presented with a platoon of pods in different environments. The experiment evaluated four vehicle speeds, from 1 km/h to 16 km/h, four temporal gaps, from 2 s to 5 s, and two environments. These environments were a typical road layout, with footpath and line markings, and a shared space, where all markings and separation between pod and pedestrian were removed. For each scenario, participants were asked if they would cross between the pods and how safe they felt about the situation, recorded as a Likert score. The results suggest that people are more likely to attempt to cross between a platoon of pods when they are travelling closer together in a shared space (no line markings or separation between vehicles and pedestrian), compared to a road environment (separated by raised pavement and road markings). However, it was also found that people’s subjective rating of safeness was higher in the road environment, when presented with a platoon of pods, compared to the shared space.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-14
Number of pages15
JournalTransportation Research Part F: Traffic Psychology and Behaviour
Early online date21 Oct 2019
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2019
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

NOTICE: this is the author’s version of a work that was accepted for publication in Transportation Research Part F: Traffic Psychology and Behaviour. Changes resulting from the publishing process, such as peer review, editing, corrections, structural formatting, and other quality control mechanisms may not be reflected in this document. Changes may have been made to this work since it was submitted for publication. A definitive version was subsequently published in Transportation Research Part F: Traffic Psychology and Behaviour, 67, (2019) DOI: 10.1016/j.trf.2019.09.017

© 2019, Elsevier. Licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International


  • Autonomous vehicles
  • Pedestrian gap acceptance
  • Virtual reality
  • Human factors

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Transportation
  • Automotive Engineering
  • Applied Psychology
  • Civil and Structural Engineering


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