Keeping Eye and Mind on the Road

University dissertation from Uppsala : Acta Universitatis Upsaliensis

Abstract: This thesis is devoted to understanding and counteracting the primary contributing factor in traffic crashes: inattention. Foremost, it demonstrates the fundamental importance of proactive gaze in the road centre area for action guidance in driving. Inattention is explained with regard to two visual functions (vision-for-action and vision-for-identification), three forms of attentional selection (action-driven-, stimulus-driven-, and goal-directed attention), and two forms of prediction influences (extrapolation-based- and decision-based prediction influences). In Study I an automated eye-movement analysis method was developed for a purpose-built eye-tracking sensor, and was successfully validated. This analysis method was further developed, and several new measures of gaze concentration to the road centre area were created. Study II demonstrated that a sharp decrease in the amount of road centre viewing time is accompanied by a dramatic spatial concentration towards the road centre area in returning gaze during visual tasks. During cognitive tasks, a spatial gaze concentration to road centre is also evident; however contrary to visual tasks, road centre viewing time is increased because the eyes are not directed towards an object within the vehicle. Study III found that gaze concentration measures are highly sensitive to driving task demands as well as to visual and auditory in-vehicle tasks. Gaze concentration to the road centre area was found as driving task complexity increased, as shown in differences between rural curved- and straight sections, between rural and motorway road types, and between simulator and field motorways. Further, when task duration was held constant and the in-vehicle visual task became more difficult, drivers looked less at the road centre area ahead, and looked at the display more often, for longer periods, and for more varied durations. In closing, it is shown how this knowledge can be applied to create in-vehicle attention support functions that counteract the effects of inattention.