The effect of simulation attributes on driver perception and behavior
Durkee, Shaun Michael
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Transportation systems in today's world are complex, diverse, and dangerous. Drivers execute many tasks in order to safely and efficiently maneuver their vehicles in these systems. Evaluation of vehicle speed (ego motion) and inter-vehicle distance (egocentric distance) are crucial skills and constant demands while operating a motor vehicle. Common maneuvers such as braking, obstacle avoidance, and overtaking rely heavily on such skills. Driving skills and transportation safety concerns in general have been studied over the years by many research methodologies. One such methodology, the driving simulator, has emerged as a leading research tool to help understand driver behavior and mitigate traffic safety concerns. The overall effectiveness of driving simulation as a research tool is linked to how accurately modern technology can model reality. Therefore determining how valid simulators are in representing reality is a chief concern among researchers, as validity ensures accuracy and credibility of research efforts. Simulation validity is established both physically and behaviorally. The objective of this project was to conduct a driving simulator experiment to examine the perceptual and behavioral effects of various parameters of the simulation deemed relevant from theories of ego motion. Twenty drivers completed speed and following distance perception tasks (absolute production, fixed-increase production, and ratio production) while driving through rural road scenarios that varied in the presentation of motion, field of view, and optic flow. Tasks and dependent variables assessed driver perception of speeds (25-65 MPH) and following distances (150-300 ft) common in everyday driving. The study concluded that field of view (FOV) and optic flow simulation parameters were significant to the perception of absolute speed, with high levels of each parameter (large FOV, high optic flow) resulting in more accurate perception than low levels (small FOV, low optic flow). Also, participants perceived a high level of field of view as significantly more natural than a low level of field of view. The results of this study will add to the existing simulator body of knowledge and will also allow the researchers to quantify the relative importance of simulation parameters as a basis for future behavioral validation of the driving simulator.