Is improved lane keeping during cognitive load caused by increased physical arousal or gaze concentration toward the road center?

Driver distraction is one of the main causes of motor-vehicle accidents. However, the impact on traffic safety of tasks that impose cognitive (non-visual) distraction remains debated. One particularly intriguing finding is that cognitive load seems to improve lane keeping performance, most often quantified as reduced standard deviation of lateral position (SDLP). The main competing hypotheses, supported by current empirical evidence, suggest that cognitive load improves lane keeping via either increased physical arousal, or higher gaze concentration toward the road center, but views are mixed regarding if, and how, these possible mediators influence lane keeping performance. Hence, a simulator study was conducted, with participants driving on a straight city road section whilst completing a cognitive task at different levels of difficulty. In line with previous studies, cognitive load led to increased physical arousal, higher gaze concentration toward the road center, and higher levels of micro-steering activity, accompanied by improved lane keeping performance. More importantly, during the high cognitive task, both physical arousal and gaze concentration changed earlier in time than micro-steering activity, which in turn changed earlier than lane keeping performance. In addition, the authors' results did not show a significant correlation between gaze concentration and physical arousal on the level of individual task recordings. Based on these findings, various multilevel models for micro-steering activity and lane keeping performance were conducted and compared, and the results suggest that all of the mechanisms proposed by existing hypotheses could be simultaneously involved. In other words, it is suggested that cognitive load leads to: (i) an increase in arousal, causing increased micro-steering activity, which in turn improves lane keeping performance, and (ii) an increase in gaze concentration, causing lane keeping improvement through both (a) further increased micro-steering activity and (b) a tendency to steer toward the gaze target.


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  • Accession Number: 01673056
  • Record Type: Publication
  • Files: TRIS
  • Created Date: May 29 2018 3:23PM