The quiet revolution
12:16pm - 06/01/2013
(adapted from Nick's article in the January issue of the Ergonomist)
For those of us who follow IEHF on twitter, or Steven Shorrock's personal account, and/or were involved the relevant DfT IEHF consultation reply prepared by the Driving Ergonomics SIG over a year ago, this is not news: the number of (official) voices in support of a graduate licensing for new drivers in the UK is growing. Insurance companies welcome the additional restrictions and the subsequent control over financial risk; parents welcome the added reassurance their children will only drive vehicles and distances which pose low risk (in their own minds at least); even young adults themselves could welcome such a scheme, because it simply opens the door to motoring which, albeit restricted at its early stages, would become more financially accessible thanks to the reduced insurance premiums compared to the surreal prices they have to pay today.
At the far background of all this, there's another much less obvious change taking place: the driving task as a whole is changing. Or to be more precise, it has changed.
The established driver training is based on the notion that the driving task consists of two primary tasks: longitudinal control (accelerating/braking) and lateral control (steering). In addition and in support of the primary tasks, secondary tasks such as windscreen wiper, headlights etc. operation are included in the rudimentary curriculum. In addition, relatively recently, the introduction of hazard awareness and driving strategy courses raised some awareness of the multi-layered nature of the driving task (see Allen & Lunenfeld,1971 and Michon, 1993 for details).
To many ergonomists/human factors experts, neither the multi-layered nature of the driving task, nor the trend towards automation in vehicles is news. In fact, many members were involved with early research in Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS) such as adaptive cruise control, intelligent speed adaptation, lane departure warning etc. since the early nineties. In the last decade, many of those systems became available as options in many premium-class vehicles. So, what's new and what is this article on about?
The answer can be summarised in two words: "integration" and "accessibility". "Accessibility", because ADAS are now available in small family cars. One can walk into a showroom and order the most common vehicle on European roads with every ADAS imagined. "Integration", because such systems are now integrated into a driver support entity that superficially takes away parts of the traditional driving task; however what is happening underneath is that this entity is actively changing the driving task from the fundamentals of steering and accelerating, to the higher level tasks of "how do I get there?" and "which vehicle I use" even.
On the background of this, the researchers among us have studied in detail the effects of individual ADAS systems. There is a wealth of knowledge on adaptive cruise control for example and such wealth supported the introduction and the growth to maturity of such technology. Nevertheless, as recently pointed out in the editorial of a special issue of Human Factors (Merat & Lee, 2012), there is rather scarce published research on the holistic impact of ADAS on the driving task.
The aviators among us will say that they've seen it all before: computerisation, fly-by-wire, automation in the cockpit. This is probably true, but only up to a point (Young, et al., 2007) ; because pilots cannot be counted in the millions in this country, and subsequently, training cannot be as demanding or prolonged. Unless we go back to the chauffeur-only days...
Back to the present, having had the opportunity to drive the top spec of the new model of what looks to remain europe's best selling car, the pragmatic driving experience is a real game changer when it comes to ADAS. Of course we are no longer surprised by vehicles that can retain a safe headway while cruising on the motorway. How about vehicles that pick up lane marks and compensate for inadvertent lane deviations? Neither, probably. How about vehicles that actively steer round corners (subject to visible road markings)? Hmm, now it gets interesting. And how about vehicles that have active but barely perceivable steering and braking inputs to help drivers go round bends safely? Now, we're talking!
Easier said than done, the latter achievement has been the heated topic of informal conversations and academic research dialogue for sometime now. The convincing execution of ADAS in a mainstream small-family vehicle, is a credit to everybody who has supported the 30-year old mature research and development in this technical area; including many of our IEHF colleagues. In parallel, the pragmatic application of those vehicles systems will set new topics for discussion and in-depth research; however, that can be the topic of another future article. Let's sip this moment first.
Happy new year, everyone!
Allen, T.M, Lunenfeld, H., & Alexander, G.J. (1971). Driver information needs, Highway Research Record, 366, 102-115.
Gkikas, N. (2012). Driving in the era of IVIS and ADAS. In L. Dorn (ed.) Driver Behaviour and Training, Volume V, pp.417-428. Aldershot: Ashgate.
Merat, Natasha & Lee, J. D. (2012). Preface to a special issue on automation in vehicles. Human Factors, 54 (5), 681-686.
Michon, J.A. (1993). Generic Intelligent Driver Support. London: Taylor & Francis.
Reed, N. (2012). IVIS, ADAS, OODA: joining the loops, in N. Gkikas (ed.) Automotive Ergonomics: Driver-Vehicle Interaction, pp. 41-53. Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press.
Young, M.S. (2012). Ergonomic issues with Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS). In N. Gkikas (ed.) Automotive Ergonomics: Driver Vehicle Interaction, pp. 55-76. Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press.
Young, M.S., Stanton, N.A., & Harris, D. (2007). Driving automation: Learning from aviation about design philosophies. International Journal of Vehicle Design, 45(3), 323-338.