Community Research and Development Information Service - CORDIS

What are you looking at? [Print to PDF] [Print to RTF]

When negotiating a curve, car drivers look at specific points on the road to steer the wheel. A group of German researchers scrutinised the eye movements of test drivers, elucidating the details of their instinctive strategies in different types of curves. Ultimately, this stu...
What are you looking at?
When negotiating a curve, car drivers look at specific points on the road to steer the wheel. A group of German researchers scrutinised the eye movements of test drivers, elucidating the details of their instinctive strategies in different types of curves. Ultimately, this study could lead to the development of a warning system for safer driving on winding roads. These findings were published in the Journal of Vision by members of the EU-funded DRIVSCO ('Learning to emulate perception action cycles in a driving school scenario') research project. DRIVSCO received EUR 2.37 million from the Information Society Technologies Thematic area of the Sixth Framework Programme (FP6).

In a curve, drivers tend to look at a specific point on the lane marking, called the tangent point: this is the innermost point of the inner lane marking (or of the limit between the road and the nearby green if there is a single lane). Other scientists had already studied the eye movements of drivers in a virtual setting. This time, the team led by Dr Farid Kandil of the Department of Psychology at the University of Münster, Germany, ran a test drive on a real road.

Six non-professional but experienced drivers (including Dr Kandil himself) drove through a series of right and left-hand curves on a German country road. The authors classified the bends depending on how curved they were. The study participants drove 5 times on each of the 3 courses; in total, the researchers recorded 648 bends. The experiments were carried out on a continental European right-hand traffic road, but the researchers believe that the results could also be used to predict drivers' strategies in left-hand traffic, for instance on British roads.

The drivers wore a light-weight eye-tracker on their head and the car was rebuilt for the purposes of the study: it powered two desktop computers with monitors and cameras. Thanks to this equipment, the team could record not only the driver's eye movements, but also the car's position on the street and its GPS coordinates, other cars and obstacles ahead, the steering wheel angle and the road's curvature.

Finally, the scientists combined the images from the cameras with car-related data and gaze directions in order to understand the strategy that drivers adopt instinctively to keep the car within the lane. The team found that drivers rely on looking at the tangent point more than half of the time, but this varies depending on the type of curve. In a sharp, right-hand curve, the figure rises to 80%. In general, drivers use the tangent point more in right-hand bends, where less of the road ahead is visible, than in left-hand bends. Also, they rely on this special spot more while entering the bend than when leaving the curve. Taken together, these data show that the more closed the bend, the more the driver relies on the tangent point.

The authors of the study are already planning how to use these findings to increase car safety; they are preparing additional experiments using a prototype warning system. 'The system we envision will look out for upcoming curves and retrieve information about the eye movements the driver normally performs,' explains Kandil. 'If the driver does not show his typical pattern of eye movements upon approaching a bend, then the system will assume that he has not seen it and will warn him in time.'
Source: ARVO; Journal of Vision

Related information

Record Number: 32305 / Last updated on: 2010-07-08
Category: Report summary
Provider: EC