Examining the effects of an eco-driving system on driver distraction

Rouzikhah, Hossein (2012) Examining the effects of an eco-driving system on driver distraction. Masters by Research thesis, Queensland University of Technology.


Driver distraction has recently been defined by Regan as "the diversion of attention away from activities critical for safe driving toward a competing activity, which may result in insufficient or no attention to activities critical for safe driving (Regan, Hallett & Gordon, 2011, p.1780)". One source of distraction is in-vehicle devices, even though they might provide other benefits, e.g. navigation systems. Currently, eco-driving systems have been growing rapidly in popularity. These systems send messages to drivers so that driving performance can be improved in terms of fuel efficiency. However, there remain unanswered questions about whether eco-driving systems endanger drivers by distracting them. In this research, the CARRS-Q advanced driving simulator was used in order to provide safety for participants and meanwhile simulate real world driving. The distraction effects of tasks involving three different in-vehicle systems were investigated: changing a CD, entering a five digit number as a part of navigation task and responding to an eco-driving task. Driving in these scenarios was compared with driving in the absence of these distractions, and while drivers engaged in critical manoeuvres. In order to account for practice effects, the same scenarios were duplicated on a second day. The three in-vehicle systems were not the exact facsimiles of any particular existing system, but were designed to have similar characteristics to those of system available.

In general, the results show that drivers’ mental workloads are significantly higher in navigation and CD changing scenarios in comparison to the two other scenarios, which implies that these two tasks impose more visual/manual and cognitive demands. However, eco-driving mental workload is still high enough to be called marginally significant (p ~ .05) across manoeuvres. Similarly, event detection tasks show that drivers miss significantly more events in the navigation and CD changing scenarios in comparison to both the baseline and eco-driving scenario across manoeuvres.

Analysis of the practice effect shows that drivers’ baseline scenario and navigation scenario exhibit significantly less demand on the second day. However, the number of missed events across manoeuvres confirmed that drivers can detect significantly more events on the second day for all scenarios.

Distraction was also examined separately for five groups of manoeuvres (straight, lane changing, overtaking, braking for intersections and braking for roundabouts), in two locations for each condition. Repeated measures mixed ANOVA results show that reading an eco-driving message can potentially impair driving performance. When comparing the three in–vehicle distractions tested, attending to an eco-driving message is similar in effect to the CD changing task. The navigation task degraded driver performance much more than these other sources of distraction.

In lane changing manoeuvres, drivers’ missed response counts degraded when they engaged in reading eco-driving messages at the first location. However, drivers’ event detection abilities deteriorated less at the second lane changing location. In baseline manoeuvres (driving straight), participants’ mean minimum speed degraded more in the CD changing scenario. Drivers’ lateral position shifted more in both CD changing and navigation tasks in comparison with both eco-driving and baseline scenarios, so they were more visually distracting. Participants were better at event detection in baseline manoeuvres in comparison with other manoeuvres. When approaching an intersection, the navigation task caused more events to be missed by participants, whereas eco-driving messages seemed to make drivers less distracted. The eco-driving message scenario was significantly less distracting than the navigation system scenario (fewer missed responses) when participants commenced braking for roundabouts.

To sum up, in spite of the finding that two other in-vehicle tasks are more distracting than the eco-driving task, the results indicate that even reading a simple message while driving could potentially lead to missing an important event, especially when executing critical manoeuvres. This suggests that in-vehicle eco-driving systems have the potential to contribute to increased crash risk through distraction. However, there is some evidence of a practice effect which suggests that future research should focus on performance with habitual rather than novel tasks. It is recommended that eco-driving messages be delivered to drivers off-line when possible.

Impact and interest:

8 citations in Web of Science®
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ID Code: 59475
Item Type: QUT Thesis (Masters by Research)
Supervisor: King, Mark J. & Rakotonirainy, Andry
Keywords: driver distration, in-vehicle devices, navigation systems, eco-driving
Divisions: Current > Research Centres > Centre for Accident Research & Road Safety - Qld (CARRS-Q)
Institution: Queensland University of Technology
Deposited On: 29 Apr 2013 03:04
Last Modified: 03 Sep 2015 05:26

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