Investigating the Effect of Drivers’ Body Motion on Traffic Safety

UTC Project Information

A significant amount of research has been involved with the development of advanced driver assistance systems. Such systems typically include radars, laser or video sensors that detect the vehicle trajectory and warn for an imminent lane departure, or sense the front vehicle’s speed and apply the brakes of the following vehicle to maintain safe distance headways (i.e., collision avoidance system). However, most of these systems rely on the automobile position and do not consider the driver’s actions during the driving task. Apart from that, the lane trajectory and position of the vehicle could potentially differ from the driver’s intent to change lanes. In addition safety research has focused on eye tracking as a means of capturing driver’s attention, fatigue, or drowsiness; however, the entire body posture has not been investigated in depth.

This research proposes a novel approach for studying the actual movements of drivers inside the vehicle, when performing specific maneuver types or while engaging to secondary tasks that require a certain body movement. With the use of two low-cost infrared depth sensors, the 3D shape of selected participants will be constructed, as they are performing various driving maneuvers and as they are engaged in secondary tasks while driving. The experiments will be performed in real life conditions with the use of an instrumented vehicle owned by UF-Transportation Research Center. An eye-tracker will be used to facilitate the data collection process. The 3D point cloud time-series collected from the eye-tracker and the infrared sensors will be analyzed using tensor-based models. A rigorous analysis of the results is expected to provide insights related to what drivers actually do (or do not do) that may trigger an unsafe event. A comparison between different driver groups will also be performed. The proposed research falls within the STRIDE’s scope of traffic safety and human factors research. This research is also in line with the US DOT strategic goal towards traffic safety.

The main objective of the proposed research is to investigate the relationship between potentially unsafe driving events and the actual driver body posture and movements when performing a driving maneuver (e.g., lane changing, merging) under different traffic and geometric configurations and when engaging with a secondary task. The findings of this research can provide significant insights regarding which body movements may hide unsafe situations while performing a driving maneuver that requires the attention of the surrounding environment. A second objective is to identify typical behaviors of specific driver groups (e.g., younger vs. older drivers, aggressive vs. conservative drivers, men vs. women), in naturalistic settings. Such information can be used for enhancing current driver training methods for targeted driver groups such as novice or elderly drivers. The third objective of the study is to develop a conceptual framework for constructing an in-vehicle driver assistance system that takes into account the driver’s body posture and movements rather than considering solely the vehicle position.

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