Driver Attention to the Driving Task

Lead Research Organisation: University of Leeds
Department Name: Institute for Transport Studies


With the advent of a variety of infotainment systems into the vehicle cockpit, the identification of whether the human operator is paying sufficient attention to the primary task of driving is becoming a critical research question. What entertainment and information activities are compatible with safe driving? How can infotainment systems be best designed so as to minimise the risk of diverting driver attention in situations when focus on the driving task is required?

This topic area is becoming even more important with the advent of automation of the driving task. When the vehicle is operating under its own control, it is arguably safe for the human to be diverting attention away from driving and the traffic situation. But some automation designs still require supervisory control by the human and readiness to take over at short notice. Therefore some level of attention to the external road and traffic scene is still needed and infotainment systems will need to be designed in such a way as to encourage that required attention and appropriate task sharing.

The studentship will combine both analysis of real-world driving (naturalistic studies) and experimental works, with the experimental investigation being informed by the lessons learned from the real-world studies. The analysis of real-world driving will exploit the newly completed and rich database acquired by the European UDRIVE project (, which provides unparalleled detail on the driving behaviour of car drivers recruited in four European countries, including continuous video of the road scene, the vehicle interior and the driver's face. It will be possible to analyse how driver glance behaviour and attention is influenced by the road and traffic situation, driver attitudes, driver country and secondary task activity and also how it relates to the inherent risk of the situation. Comparison with previous results from the analysis of naturalistic driving data from the U.S. will be a feature.

The experimental work will build on the naturalistic analysis to investigate how the design of infotainment systems could influence driver attention and what design solutions could fulfil drivers wish to engage in secondary tasks, while at the same time supporting needed attention to the roadway. It will be conducted in the University of Leeds Driving Simulator (, one of the most advanced such facilities in the world.


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Studentship Projects

Project Reference Relationship Related To Start End Student Name
EP/N509681/1 01/10/2016 30/09/2021
1982888 Studentship EP/N509681/1 01/01/2018 30/06/2021 Mickael Perrier
Description Automated cars are classified into different categories:
0. No automation
1. Driver assistance: either speed or steering control is automated
2. Partial automation: both speed and steering are automated but driver must remain attentive
3+. Conditional automation and more: driving is automated under certain conditions and drivers must remain ready to take control when asked to

Poster 1)
To inform drivers that driving assistances are activated, symbols light up on the instrument clusters. Driving assistances and their symbols were designed years ago, when automated cars were not at the stage they are today, with the current form of how instrument clusters and in-car displays are displayed. Moreover, two driving assistances are most of the time grouped under the same name and share the same symbol.

Therefore, to evaluate the validity of the symbols for speed and steering assistances (adaptive cruise control [ACC], lane keeping assistance [LKA], lace centring control [LCC]), we ran a participatory design workshop with drivers for them to draw symbols that would best represent these systems according to themselves.
It was found that several symbols used by manufacturers to represent the same functions were confusing and disliked.
These results were presented as a poster at Automotive User Interface (AutoUI'19) in September 2019.

Poster 2)
A survey followed the workshop to assess whether drivers over the world would guess the meaning of 4 symbols for each of the two assistances. 400 participants responded either in English, French, or Spanish. This survey shows that the standard symbol defined by the ISO for ACC is not the most recognised, while the standard symbol for LKA would be more appropriate for LCC, and the non-standard symbol for LCC that is the most used by manufacturers would be more appropriate for LKA.

These results will be presented as a poster at the International Conference on Traffic and Transport Psychology 2020 (ICTTP'20) in Sweden in August 2020.
Exploitation Route These results should be used for writing up guidelines of human-machine interface design guidelines. They should also be considered by the ISO in the re-evaluation of their standards in the future, which occurs every few years.
Sectors Digital/Communication/Information Technologies (including Software),Transport

Title Driver-Vehicle Interface for University of Leeds Driving Simulator 
Description I am designing and programming a new instrument cluster for the portable driving simulator allowing representation of modern visual instruments for automated vehicles as the current interface is deprecated in this regard. 
Type Of Material Improvements to research infrastructure 
Year Produced 2020 
Provided To Others? No  
Impact This will allow researcher to use a modern and more flexible interface for their studies. 
Description Industrial Sponsorship: Bosch 
Organisation Robert Bosch LLC
Country United States 
Sector Private 
PI Contribution The PhD is co-funded by this partnership.
Collaborator Contribution This sponsor is contributing financially to the studentship.
Impact Same as PhD.
Start Year 2018