July 18, 2023Blog

Humanizing Mobility Series: Our Future Relationship with Automated Vehicles

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Redefining Human Connections on the Road

By Stephanie Park; Senior UX Strategist

In a rapidly evolving world where AI-powered advancements, such as ChatGPT, are blurring the lines between artificial intelligence and human interaction, a transformative reshaping of the bond between humans and automated vehicles is taking place. AI technologies are surpassing their intended functions of information retrieval and task automation, even stepping into the role of companions in our lives. Recent studies have shown that personal voice assistants have been associated with reducing loneliness, specifically among the aging population (Jones et al., 2021). It is likely that our relationship with automated vehicles will evolve to reach an entirely new level of personal connection as well.

Our deeply personal relationship with cars is not a new concept. People often form deep emotional bonds with their vehicles, experiencing a sense of sentimentality when parting ways and even giving them cherished pet names. The automotive industry still seeks to have a clear focus and robust discussion on the evolving psychological and emotional relationship between humans and automated driving technology. Potential consequences of this situation can be found in some studies. According to the 2023 AAA Annual Automated Vehicle Survey, 68% of drivers are afraid to ride in an automated vehicle, which is a 13% increase from last year's survey. Another study on psychological roadblocks to the adoption of self-driving vehicles stated, "The biggest barrier to widespread adoption of autonomous driving is psychological, not technological." (Shariff, 2018)

Without fully understanding the nature of how humans can comfortably interact with AI systems, the adoption rate will be low even when automated driving technology for higher level autonomy is achieved. Designing automated driving systems capable of establishing a human-like relationship with its driver can instill confidence in the system, helping drive adoption. 

At Woven by Toyota, we derive insights from human relationships to develop automated driving technology. For example, we think about each interaction with the system as a form of communication and as contributing to building a relationship with the system, much like conversation does in human relationships. Additionally, we consider the onboarding experience of automated driving systems as a crucial aspect of relationship-building, similar to how a person's initial impression can significantly impact their relationship with someone.

Moreover, drivers having a clear understanding of the system and thereby bolstering the trust level helps them interact more safely with the system. According to a study, maintaining an appropriate level of trust is crucial to ensure safety, as mistrust or overtrust can lead to potentially hazardous situations. For example, overtrust and false assumptions about the responsibilities of the system can lead to reduced situational awareness and delayed reactions to automation failures, potentially resulting in dangerous situations (Inagaki, 2013). Therefore, drivers' comprehension of their responsibilities should be prioritized to mitigate safety risks. This parallels our human relationships, where we have distinct roles as family or friends, which shape our mutual expectations.

The Automated Driving Teammate Concept by Toyota emphasizes the system's role as a collaborator, aiming to establish the appropriate level of trust to create a sense of working alongside a teammate. By using the analogy of a human relationship, such as a teammate, it becomes easier for drivers to grasp the concept. This comparison highlights the shared control and responsibilities of driving, while also emphasizing the potential benefits that the system offers, similar to how one would benefit from a teammate.

In the future, automakers will have to be clearer about the type of relationship the system will build and develop with the drivers to optimize safety in their experience. The UX team in Woven by Toyota helps prioritize the human experience of system interactions, considering them from a relational perspective. Recognizing the vital role of this human-to-vehicle connection will be instrumental in driving the development and widespread adoption of automated driving technology.


  1. Jones VK, Hanus M, Yan C, Shade MY, Blaskewicz Boron J, Maschieri Bicudo R. Reducing Loneliness Among Aging Adults: The Roles of Personal Voice Assistants and Anthropomorphic Interactions. Front Public Health. 2021 Dec 10;9:750736. doi: 10.3389/fpubh.2021.750736. PMID: 34957013; PMCID: PMC8702424.

  2. Shariff, A. (2018). Psychological roadblocks to the adoption of self-driving vehicles. Transportation Research Part A: Policy and Practice, 118, 103-113. doi: 10.1016/j.tra.2018.08.005

  3. American Automobile Association. (2021). AAA annual automated vehicle survey. https://newsroom.aaa.com/2023/03/aaa-fear-of-self-driving-cars-on-the-rise/

  4. Inagaki, T., & Itoh, M. (2013). Human’s overtrust in and overreliance on advanced driver assistance systems: a theoretical framework. International Journal of Vehicular Technology, 2013, 1–8. https://doi.org/10.1155/2013/951762

  5. Toyota Motor Corporation. (2020). Toyota's Approach to Automated Driving. https://amrd.toyota.com/app/uploads/2022/02/ATwhitepaper.pdf