Transportation & Vehicle Safety Policy

Impacts on Driver Perceptions in Initial Exposure to ADAS Technologies

Nylen, A.B.; Reyes, M.L.; Roe, C.A.; McGehee, D.V.


Advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS) offer great promise in improving the safety of our roadways. Although ADAS have rapidly entered the U.S. passenger vehicle market, little is known about driver understanding and attitudes toward ADAS, especially the impact of their initial exposure to the technologies. Whereas some ADAS may be easy to learn and use, others are more complex and have limitations that may not be obvious to the driver. The Technology Demonstration Study was conducted to evaluate how the ways in which drivers learn about ADAS affect their knowledge and perceptions of the technology. Two base learning methods were utilized for the study, both of which are traditional forms of learning for the average driver: reading the owner’s manual and making observations inside the vehicle. From these base learning methods, four learning protocols were developed, two of which included both methods. This paper investigates how drivers’ perceptions of usefulness, apprehension, and trust with regard to ADAS functionality were affected by initial exposure to the technology. Participants who observed ADAS during a demonstration drive had more positive perceptions relative to those who only read about them, particularly for ADAS that provide vehicle control.

Advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS) have become increasingly available in recent years. These technologies provide alerts or warnings to the driver and, in some instances, perform vehicle control functions. Some of these technologies promise to improve safety on our roadways, as they are designed to alert, warn, and assist the driver in avoiding or mitigating the severity of potential collisions (1). However, given the relatively recent introduction of these technologies into the market, little is known about how drivers learn about them (2) and how the way(s) in which they learn about them may affect their perceptions of the technologies.

A driver’s initial exposure to ADAS may affect the development of their mental model of the technology, and thus their attitudes and perceptions regarding the technology. When a driver is utilizing ADAS, it is imperative a correct mental model of the functionality of the system is developed so the technology is applied appropriately on road (3, 4).

Some ADAS may be fairly easy to learn, whereas other systems are more complex and require greater attention and effort by the driver to develop a thorough understanding. Some studies have measured the information sources reported as the preferred method to learn about ADAS by drivers. Studies have found that drivers report the owner’s manual (2, 5) as their preferred method to learn about the technology.

Different learning methods may convey the function, purpose, and limitations of the technology in a slightly different manner. For example, the traditional owner’s manual is lengthy and may be largely unread (6–9). Owner’s manuals often emphasize the limitations, warnings, or cautionary information of the technology but may be difficult to understand outside the context of actual driving or be buried within the large amount of information included in the owner’s manual (10). Another common method to educate drivers about ADAS technologies is a demonstration or test drive of the technology (11), most commonly provided by a sales associate from the dealership. However, a prior study found wide variance in the associates’ training and capabilities to explain the safety technologies to drivers (12). Varying experiences during the demonstration or test drive may leave drivers with very different and potentially inaccurate understandings of the technologies. One driver may receive more information about a technology’s limitations, whereas another driver may receive more information about the function of the technology. These varying experiences may begin to shape the driver’s opinions about the technology. An in-person demonstration is a form of observational learning, which has been studied in other domains, for example, acquiring motor skills associated with a specific sport (13). However, there seems to have been little research about its application in this context.

Various learning methods affect a user’s mental model development of and attitudes toward a system. Though a user’s mental model development does evolve over time (14), the initial exposure to or experience with the system may have a lasting effect on the user’s trust (15). Prior research has found that appropriate trust of automation depends on the operator’s understanding of the context applied for the technology (15). A gap in the driver’s expectation and the actual behavior of the automation can undermine the driver’s trust, even in scenarios in which the technology performs as designed (15). If drivers do not trust the system, it is more likely they will not use the technology.

The rapid introduction of ADAS and their penetration into even the economy trim lines led researchers to question how the ways in which a driver is initially exposed to the technology affects their knowledge and perceptions of ADAS. This analysis of data from the Technology Demonstration Study (TDS) evaluates how two commonly utilized learning methods (owner’s manual and demonstration of the technology) affect driver ratings of perceived usefulness, apprehension, and trust for several ADAS technologies. To our knowledge, the TDS serves as the first of its kind, evaluating how two common learning methods affect a driver’s perceived ratings of usefulness, apprehension, and trust for several ADAS.


Nylen AB, Reyes ML, Roe CA, McGehee DV. Impacts on Driver Perceptions in Initial Exposure to ADAS Technologies. 2019:036119811984797. doi:10.1177/0361198119847975.