Evaluating the Human Experience of Autonomous Boats with Immersive Virtual Reality

Titus Venverloo, Fábio Duarte*, Tom Benson, Quentin Bitran, Ardion D. Beldad, Ricardo Alvarez, Carlo Ratti

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)
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Autonomous Vehicles (AVs) are an emergent technology. The very few studies focusing on how people perceive and react to autonomous vehicles are mainly based on online surveys. Although important, these studies measure people‘s opinions on AVs, but not their actual reaction when using them. In this paper, we assess users‘ perceptions of AVs using an immersive virtual reality experiment. We modeled autonomous boats that are intended to be deployed in Amsterdam, the Netherlands. We compared users‘ reactions to manned and unmanned boats in a virtual reality environment. In total, 30 participants were exposed to a Virtual Reality (VR) simulation, where we collected skin conductance data, which was compared with a participant’s responses to a questionnaire regarding perceived risk, stress, and trust toward manned and unmanned boats. The study finds that autonomous boats do not substantially influence the experienced stress, trust, or perceived risk in comparison with human-controlled boats. This article also shows the gains that virtual reality can bring to studies of the social appropriation of technologies. Results show the need for objective, quantitative data regarding the societal acceptance toward autonomous systems to better understand how these technologies will be appropriated.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)141-154
JournalJournal of Urban Technology
Issue number3-4
Early online date14 Sept 2020
Publication statusPublished - 2021


  • Amsterdam
  • autonomous boats
  • Autonomous vehicles (AVs)
  • human–robot interaction
  • Virtual Reality
  • 22/2 OA procedure


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