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Study looks at drivers' visual responses to pre-crash alerts

If you stroll onto the showroom floor of a Raleigh car dealership, you will be shown a variety of new vehicles featuring optional Advanced Driver-Assistance Systems (ADAS). These collision-avoidance systems generate pre-crash alerts to help reduce possible injuries and fatalities in motor vehicle crashes.

A group of engineers recently "conducted open-road testing of three collision-avoidance systems" and found that "drivers' visual behavior in response" to pre-crash alerts falls into four categories: active gaze, self-conscious gaze, attentive gaze and ignored gaze.

  • Active gaze: driver responds to the alert with immediate action
  • Self-conscious gaze: driver doesn't react to the alert because the driver's already aware of the traffic hazard that triggered the alert
  • Attentive gaze: driver's aware of the pre-crash alert but deems it not serious, so ignores it
  • Ignored gaze: because the alert is bothersome, driver doesn't respond

The study's author said similar research was conducted using either driving simulators or closed-course tracks, but that this is one of the first using open-road (real-world) conditions.

The study tracked responses of college-age men driving 9.3 miles of open roads consisting of a mix of city streets and highways. Drivers' visual responses to alerts generated by the crash-avoidance systems were recorded with specialized driver-worn glasses and with a trio of cameras:

  • A 360-degree roof-mounted camera
  • A passenger-side door-mounted camera to record drivers' leg and arm movements
  • A windshield-mounted GPS camera recording vehicle speed and location

Pre- and post-alert video was analyzed.

Future studies will include diversity in age and gender and help to give automakers hard data about which types of alerts generate the quickest critical responses and which alerts are most ignored.

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