More not less driver training needed for semi-automated cars

A new study says that behavioural training for drivers is paramount for the transition into the next stage of automated vehicles, known as level 3 automation.

semi-automated carsResearchers from the University of Nottingham and the RAC Foundation studied two groups of ‘experienced drivers’ in a high-fidelity driving simulator to observe their behaviour while driving a car with level 3 automation.

The study found that drivers who received behavioural training were more measured in their behaviour and better understood the car’s capabilities and limitations.

The behavioural training included the provision of a checklist known as ‘CHAT’, pioneered by Emily Shaw in the University’s Faculty of Engineering. The other group trained by reading an operating manual.

The acronym CHAT (check, assess, takeover) represents the actions required and help to guide the driver in making the appropriate checks and assessment of their internal and external environments prior to taking over operational control of the vehicle.

During a period of automated driving, participants in both groups could decide whether to engage in a non-driving task, such as looking at their phone, tablet, laptop or reading materials, or nothing at all.

When notified by the vehicle to take back control and transition from automated driving, the group who were trained with only an operating manual took almost 10 times longer to pay full attention to driving, continuing glances at their non-driving task for an average of 11.2 seconds, compared with 1.8 seconds in the behavioural group.

The behavioural group was also markedly faster at making their first glance at the road when notified to take over – on average 7.3 seconds, in comparison to 21 seconds in the other group.

The study found that those in the behavioural training group were also:

  • Significantly more likely to notice a potential hazard during the transition from automated to manual driving (in this case, a tailgating car), with 90% of drivers noticing the car in this group, compared to 24% of the operating manual group
  • Made more measured decisions in lane change manoeuvre shortly after taking back manual control
  • Spent more time preparing (e.g. acquiring knowledge of the road environment through mirror checks) before physically making the lane change
  • Made more mirror checks in the run up to and during the lane change manoeuvre
  • Checked their mirrors more frequently, even while the car was driving autonomously

Emily Shaw, lead author, said: “This research demonstrates that the complex and changing nature of the role of the driver in an increasingly automated car should not be underestimated.

“It’s clear that behavioural training has a positive effect on the driver’s behaviour and their understanding of the car’s capabilities.

“Our proven training procedure, ‘CHAT’, can be used to help drivers understand their shared role and responsibilities with automated vehicle technology, so that they develop the right state of mind for interacting with these vehicles.

“The ‘CHAT’ procedure’s unique messaging is designed to support and motivate drivers to rapidly recall the checks and assessments they need to undertake before making a controlled transition from automated to manual control.”

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