How do passengers react in an autonomous vehicle? This is being investigated by MICD from 2022 until 2025 in a very promising ‘mobile lab’, the Autonomous Driving Passenger Experience. This special vehicle makes it possible to safely carry out tests under realistic conditions.


From March 2022 to March 2025

Partners (TU Delft)
Transport & Planning, faculty of Civil Engineering and Geosciences

Partners (other)

Automatically driven vehicles may not yet participate in traffic due to strict safety requirements. This makes research into automated driving more difficult. For example, how can you measure how a person experiences riding in a self-driving car in a busy city?

With the Autonomous Driving Passenger Experience, MICD has come up with a solution for this problem: a lab situated in a moving car. A driver is positioned in the front but is invisible for the passenger in the back. The passenger sits in a screened-off space, surrounded by screens that display the outdoor images in real-time. As a result, the passenger experiences the ride as if the car is driving autonomously (without a driver).

In the first phase of the study, the passenger in the back has no steering wheel or pedals at his disposal. This way, the behavior of users of so-called level 5 vehicles can be studied: automatic vehicles that are completely driverless. In a later phase, a steering wheel and pedals will be installed to study the behavior of users of level 4 vehicles. At that level, the vehicle can drive autonomously, but a driver must be on standby to intervene in case of a tricky situation. The steering wheel and the pedals in the back won’t really function– they will only be used to check how quickly someone is able to take over the (level 4) steering when required.

Unique opportunities

The innovative lab provides unique opportunities for studying the behaviour of a passenger in a self-driving car. Various devices are used, such as intelligent cameras that recognise facial expressions, eye trackers, pulse and blood pressure measuring devices, sensors that measure body movements (such as pressing your feet on the floor due to a scare), and microphones (vocal reactions).

The researchers also try to determine how the various measurements can best be interpreted and how valid the measurement results are. Other questions that will be investigated are: How quickly do passengers get used to driving a level 4 or 5 vehicle? What traffic situations are perceived as exciting or difficult? How do passengers in automated cars use their time, as they do not have to drive themselves? How do different people (young/old, novice/experienced driver) react to traffic situations? And so on.

Parties involved

The car, a Nissan e-NV200 Evalia, is sponsored by Leaseplan. At TU Delft, the Transport and Planning Department of the CEG faculty is responsible for the installations in the car, registering and processing the measurements, validating the research results, and for ensuring safety. MICD provides advice and supervision to the research, takes care of the selection and guidance of the student team involved, and is responsible for the final report and for sharing the knowledge with market parties and government bodies.