1. Replicating Emergency Events in a Controlled and Safe Environment

The first study will be conducted in the UI state-of-the-art National Advanced Driving Simulator (NADS). The effort will add to the knowledge concerning sudden and unexpected events, such as unintended acceleration, and drivers’ natural reactions to them. In this study researchers will seek to determine the best testing scenarios to recreate emergency events and the most sensitive measurement techniques to describe driver reactions to them. Testing of emergency events will include a wide range of people, cars and traffic situations.

The ultimate goal will be to specify the required measurement sensors, instruments, and cameras needed to adequately capture driver reaction to sudden safety-relevant events.

2. Measuring and Mitigating Unintended Acceleration in Younger and Older Drivers

The second study will bring together a team of experts in cognitive neuroscience, medicine, human factors, driving safety, simulation, and biostatistics to identify key mechanisms of risk at the interface between the driver and pedal controls; it will also develop a novel approach to mitigating these risks through training targeting key human-vehicle interactions.

There are many potential opportunities for improving pedal control across the lifespan through physical and cognitive training. This research will examine the effectiveness of these training regimens in improving pedal behavior and recovery from errors. It will use a simulator vehicle to measure the performance of 40 older and 20 younger drivers in driving scenarios that require rapid and accurate corrective pedal actions. A second phase will randomly assign 20 older adults to receive cognitive and physical training to compare to a control group. As a result of this project we expect to gain an understanding of the brain and body factors that affect drivers’ interactions with pedals.

3. Understanding the Context of UA: Technology Solutions in Future Vehicle Designs

Modern vehicles contain multiple electronic control systems to monitor and control the throttle, engine speed, and braking. Advanced safety systems may also have sensors that monitor the vehicle, the roadway, and surrounding traffic. By combining information from the cameras and sensors with information from electronic control systems, future vehicles could monitor for malfunctions, as well as prevent them when a discrepancy is detected.

This study will identify the system and sensors required for an integrated safety system by examining current and future vehicle design concepts. An engineering analysis will reveal where necessary redundancies and safety checks are needed in such a system.

Project principal investigator: Daniel McGehee