Bears in our midst: familiarity with Level 2 driving automation and attending to surprise on-road events

Mueller, Alexandra S. / Cicchino, Jessica B. / Benedick, Amy / De Leonardis, Doreen / Huey, Rick
Transportation Research Part F: Traffic Psychology and Behaviour
October 2022

This study presents an on-road paradigm to measure the effect of Level 2 (L2) system familiarity on attention strategies to salient, but non-hazardous, driving-related events when using the driving automation. A vehicle with an oversized pink teddy bear on the back overtook participants three times while they drove a 2019 Mercedes-Benz C300 equipped with a L2 system for 1 hour. This L2 system requires drivers to keep their hands on the wheel while activated. The L2 system was turned on or off, depending on the assigned condition, and participants varied in their familiarity with L2 systems. Cameras recorded participant eye glance behavior. After the drive, participants were asked to recall the bear and the number of times their mind had wandered from the driving task during the drive. Results show that the driving automation support gave only participants familiar with L2 systems an advantage for greater bear recall. Unfamiliar participants were at a relative disadvantage when assisted by the L2 system, with generally poorer bear recall than unfamiliar participants who drove with the system off. Better bear recall corresponded with wider on-road gaze dispersion and more instances of mind wandering. Our findings support the effectiveness of this paradigm to measure driver attention when using a L2 system under real-world conditions and highlight the need to consider the role of driving automation familiarity in future research.

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