VTI conducts research regarding different aspects of attention and distraction for different types of road users like car and truck drivers, as well as bicyclists. We investigate how behaviour is changed and influenced under distraction, and which compensatory mechanisms road users employ to be able to drive or cycle and at the same time do something else. When discussing countermeasures we are interested in the user's point of view, and in the way humans function – in which way can we help the driver or cyclist to do what they want to, without compromising traffic safety?
For this research to be carried out in a smooth and meaningful manner, good theoretical knowledge, scientifically sound methodology and usable frameworks are necessary.
VTI owns high-end eye trackers that can be used both in the simulator and in the field in motor vehicles and on bicycles, which enables us to conduct studies with real-time distraction detection.
It is an important mission for us to understand human behaviour, and to investigate the potential of a fruitful cooperation of humans and technology, with the goal to make the transport system both safe and user-friendly.
HF auto project
We are involved in the EU project HF Auto (2013-2017), which is mainly about automated driving. One of the two PhD students in the project will focus on how the drivers' experience with automation will integrate additional tasks into their driving. Several experiments both in one of VTI's driving simulators and on the road are finalised.
- We have acquired a number of projects that focus on bicyclists or the interaction between bicyclists and other traffic. One of them is the EU project XCycle, coordinated by the University of Bologna. The project focuses on technical solutions to reduce the number of accidents between trucks and bicyclists.
- Another project is a cyclist programme financed by the Swedish insurance company Länsförsäkringar. Two sub-projects within the programme focus on cyclists' interactions with other traffic and also with additional tasks. We also investigate the cyclists' attentional distribution and compensation strategies.
- VTI has been granted a project called ADVanCE by Vinnova/FFI, in which we are going to investigate how cyclists and car drivers sample and interpret the same traffic environment, to see whether possible incompatibilities can explain the conflicts that we often see between those two road user groups.
Our research is often conducted in cooperation with national as well as international experts in the field. One project is an evaluation of innovative eco-driving feedback solutions in cooperation with a number of international partners (EU project Ecodriver). One of our main tasks was to investigate whether visual information about fuel efficient driving can be safely integrated into the drivers' glance pattern. We published our findings in the journal Applied Ergonomics.
Assessment of minimum required attention
This project was supported by the Danish Road Directorate. In this project we tackled the road user attention issue from a new angle, as we are not completely satisfied with the way it is dealt with today.
Instead of focusing on the glances away from the road we propose a theory that describes how we can define the minimum required attention. This theoretical foundation is now published in the journal Human Factors, and on Noldus' scientific blog we published a short description of how the MiRA theory can be applied.
An empirical evaluation of the proposed methods to assess the minimum required attention was also conducted. Among other tasks the participants drove an instrumented vehicle on the motorway under a number of different conditions, including driving with eye tracking only, while thinking aloud about their attention distribution and while using occlusion glasses. The peer-reviewed VTI report can be downloaded here, and a scientific publication is under review.
Strategies for handling telephones in traffic
Finalised projects include a a national project that investigates strategies used by bicyclists when handling telephones in traffic. The first results from this project were reported on the Transportforum conference 2014 in Linköping, and two papers on the data are published in TRF – one deals with the bicyclists' speed and one with the glance behaviour.
Evaluation of products for their usability while driving
We have finalised a collaboration with the Swedish car industry in an effort to provide a standardised method for the evaluation of products for their usability while driving (Swedish ViP-project 2TB).
We contributed to the development of a method to investigate a possible continuous relationship between visual inattention and crash severity together with our SAFER partners (TRB-project SHRP2-S08). As a response to two government commissions we completed a literature review on the use of modern communication devices while driving and the effects of laws banning such usage, as well as suggestions for effective countermeasures.
Communication while driving
In the end of 2014 we finished a project together with the Stockholm based company Veridict, in which we investigated in a simulator demonstration how a natural language interface is likely to be used while driving, and how this compares to a traditional visual-manual interface like texting. It turned out that our test participants adapted their behaviour to both modes of interaction: They often stopped the car to send their text messages, while they kept on driving during verbal communication, often waiting for calm traffic to initiate communication. For both modes of interaction participants showed safety awareness, which, however, led to a substantial time loss when texting. In general the participants were very positive towards the natural language interface.