GM studying operator behavior in semi-autonomous vehicle operation; increased driver focus on road ahead
General Motors and its research partners recently studied how non-driving activities influence driver behavior in self-steering, semi-autonomous vehicles. The researchers are preparing a report on the work, which is still a few months away from publication; however, one key finding is that driver attentiveness can be improved through advanced driver assistance and safety features.
The GM study examined the demands on the driver’s visual attention in hands-on steering and automated steering, both with full-speed range adaptive cruise control engaged. The studies took place in a driving simulator at Indiana University-Purdue University in Indianapolis and with Virginia Tech Transportation Institute (VTTI) on a GM test track in Michigan.
|”Drivers are already engaging in risky behavior, and are likely to continue doing so given the prevalence of smartphones and other portable electronics, so why not make it safer for them and the people around them. Offering some form of vehicle automation with the proper safeguards might be better than what is happening on our roads today.” |
—Dr. Eddy Llaneras, VTTI
More than one in three drivers surveyed in the AAA Foundation’s 2011 Traffic Safety Culture Index admitted to texting or emailing while driving, despite the vast majority of those surveyed agreeing such behind-the-wheel activities are unacceptable. When engaging in non-driving activities, drivers tend to split their visual attention between the roadway and secondary tasks by making relatively frequent, but brief off-road glances.
The study showed that advanced driver monitoring and assistance features, such as Forward Collision Alert, increases drivers’ focus on the road ahead by 126% when automated steering is in operation, which increases detection and response to roadway events.
People have dreamed of having self-driving cars for decades, but having that capability will be a major adjustment for people when it is first introduced. This study is helping GM and its research partners determine the best methods for keeping drivers engaged.—John Capp, GM director of Global Active Safety Electronics and Innovation
The foundation for these future systems is the Driver Assist Package (earlier post) that will be available in November on the new 2013 Cadillac XTS and ATS sedans. The package includes features such as full-speed range adaptive cruise control and automatic emergency braking, which are designed to help prevent collisions caused by human error. The human factors research underway is helping GM and its suppliers identify what new technologies will be needed to ensure safe operation of future autonomous systems.
When asked, some study participants expressed strong interest in having a vehicle that could drive itself, particularly for long trips when lane centering and full-speed range adaptive cruise control could help lighten the driver’s workload.
The Federal Highway Administration helped pay for the study but does not necessarily endorse all its findings.
GM, its partners and others are continuing to study the effectiveness of the driver monitoring systems, new ways drivers interact with their vehicles, and other active safety technologies that are key enablers for autonomous vehicles. These technologies are expected to ease drivers’ workload when traffic and road conditions allow, but they are not intended for drivers to completely “tune out.”
We recognize that autonomous vehicles will require robust safeguards. By studying driver behavior in automated driving scenarios we are better able to identify the types of driver assistance and safety features that automated cars will need.—John Capp
GM and VTTI have collaborated on a range of projects over the years, and last year completed work for the “Backing Crash Countermeasures” project, part of the US Department of Transportation’s Advanced Crash Avoidance Technologies (ACAT) program. As part of this project, they developed a basic methodological framework and computer‐based simulation model to estimate the effectiveness and potential safety benefits of various backing crash countermeasure systems.