Camilla Grane, researcher at Luleå University of Technology, in LTU's driving simulator. Photo: Melina Granberg

Drivers need to be tested

Published: 7 January 2013

Future trucks with autopilot mean a whole new driving situation and emerging risks. Camilla Grane, researcher at Luleå University of Technology (LTU), is therefore working to develop tests that can identify how the driver is affected - and the safety hazards that could arise - when the vehicle steers the vehicle.

– It is not easy. The idea is that the autopilot will make driving safer, but there may also be risks associated with such a system. For example, it can make drivers less alert. Sudden situations may arise which people handle better than technology does, says Camilla Grane which is active in Engineering Psychology at the Division of Human Work Science at LTU.

The project is a collaboration with Scania trucks and began when the company heard Camilla Grane present her previous research at a conference. In order to create autonomous systems that can handle all or part of the driving, needs Scania trucks help with developing safe methods of testing.

– The test methods Scania normally uses to evaluate the safety of the new systems measures how the driver wheels. But it is not a good measure when it comes to autopilot, because it is not you that wheels – it's the car that controls the driving, explains Camilla Grane.

The research is still in its infancy but Camilla Grane says that it is important to test many variables, to combine them and to look at the big picture – which is not normally done. Two measures that may be relevant is the stress level and alertness. The problems arise mainly at longer distances where the driver can become bored and lose attention. Therefore it is important to find out what happens to people when the autopilot is turned on.

– If people have their mind on other things, situations can be missed even though the driver has the eyes on the road. You look but you cannot see, says Camilla Grane.

The project goes hand in hand with the research previously done in Engineering Psychology at LTU. Professor Håkan Alm is the subjects front person and will also participate in this work.

Engineering Psychology has a long experience of working with the development of test methods and driving simulator studies and often implements their experiments in LTU's driving simulator. What distinguishes this project from others is the big technology jump. It is about finding methods of testing for future technologies which not yet have been developed.

– We need to find out what problems that can arise when the problem is no longer to stay on the road. It is taken care of by the truck. A new driving situation poses new human errors. It is important that these are detected before accidents occur. It would be devastating for Scania trucks with a vehicle that is unsafe. Therefore are methods of testing and driving simulator studies used. It's a way to make the development of technology ethic and to ensure the safety of both drivers and other road users, says Camilla Grane.

 

The project is a collaboration between Scania trucks, Luleå University of Technology, Uppsala University and Interactive Institute in Piteå. Scania and Vinnova funds a total of 11 million SEK, of which LTU's part is 1 million SEK .