Different Disciplines Come Together for Enhancing Driving

When you think of driving, what field of study do you think it falls into? You may be surprised that it’s actually a trick question. There are so many (literal) moving parts involved with driving, from how the driver learns, to their age and health – to the car itself. And all of that was reflected at the Enhancing Driving Conference, sponsored by University of Florida’s Transportation Institute, the College of Health and Human Performance and the Southeastern Transportation Research, Innovation, Development and Education Center (STRIDE).

In total there were nine speakers from various fields – Occupation Therapy, Education, Engineering, Digital Arts, etc. This provided an excellent opportunity for researchers to see each other’s work and hopefully build the contacts to collaborate on future endeavors.

“I really enjoyed the interdisciplinary approach of the conference,” Dr. Griffith Jones, one of the speakers from the UF College of Education said. “All of us often get so preoccupied disseminating our work within our own circles, both within and outside the university, that we inevitability miss wonderful opportunities to strengthen our work as well as further our common goals by collaborating with our home-university colleagues.”

That sentiment was echoed by Dr. Neha Lodha, a researcher in the UF Department of Applied Physiology and Kinesiology. “This platform afforded a unique opportunity to learn about research strengths and focus areas of driving experts at UF,” she told us. “My hope is that this conference has laid the groundwork for the beginning of transdisciplinary collaborations across UF for submitting and attracting driving research funding.”

Below are short summaries of each of the presentations.

Using Technology to Assess & Improve Older Drivers

Michelle Porter Ph.D., Director, Centre on Aging
University of Manitoba, Canada

Dr. Porter presented about several studies that she has done at the University of Manitoba, and with collaborators from across Canada, on older drivers. Various technologies were shown to hold promise not just for research but also as possible tools for improving older driver safety. Technologies included: 1) devices to monitor in-vehicle driving patterns, using GPS and video; 2) real-time road safety auditory warning systems; 3) computer based self-assessment tools, and 4) GPS and video as tools for driver education. She also gave an overview and update on the progress and results of the Candrive longitudinal study of older drivers (www.candrive.ca).

Lights-Camera-CRASH! Using Web-Based Crash Testing Videos, Classroom STEM Activities, & Behind-the-Scenes Tours of a Crash Research Center to Promote Safe Driving

Griffith Jones, Ph.D.
STEM TIPS-Director and Principle Investigator
College of Education, School of Teaching and Learning
University of Florida

Dr. Jones showed the audience how traffic and driving safety lessons can begin in the K-12 science classrooms. Vehicle collisions are the leading cause of teenage deaths in America and most teenagers don’t really understand how science, engineering, and technology can determine the difference between surviving and dying in a car crash. He is the host of two widely circulated educational films, “Understanding Car Crashes: It’s Basic Physics” and “Understanding Car Crashes: When Physics Meets Biology” and has also created companion materials for them. Teachers can use free web-based crash-testing videos, inquiry-based classroom STEM activities, and behind-the-scenes tours of a crash research center to teach students about the vital connections between science, technology, medicine, mathematics, engineering, and teen crash safety. For links to the videos and lessons go to http://education.ufl.edu/gjones/ and check out his Faculty Spotlight.

Motor Output Variability Impairs the Driving Ability of Older Adults

Evangelos A. Christou Ph.D.
Applied Physiology & Kinesiology
University of Florida

Dr. Christou presented his research team’s current study, which sought out whether there could be age-related declines in motor control but not strength impaired reactive driving. Their findings have implications on rehabilitation and suggest that interventions should focus on improving motor control to enhance driving-related function in older adults.

How Has Driver Behavior Been Considered in Traffic Microsimulation & How Can We Use Cognitive Sciences & Psychology Studies to Enhance Them?

Pruthvi Manjunatha, Doctoral Student from the University of Florida
Civil & Coastal Engineering

Doctoral student Pruthvi Manjunatha presented his current research on how driver behavior is a significant contributor to traffic operational quality. Traffic microsimulation tools face many challenges to realistically represent traffic due to their inability to adequately model driver behavior. At the same time a lot of work on driver behavior has been reported in the field of psychology and some of the concepts and elements from these studies can be potentially adopted in traffic microsimulation. These studies were discussed along with identification of data collection options and techniques, as well as future steps to advance this research.

Motor Impairments Influence Driving Performance Following Stroke

Neha Lodha, Ph.D.
Applied Physiology & Kinesiology
University of Florida

Dr. Lodha’s presentation focused on how motor impairments affect driving abilities in individuals who have suffered a stroke. Her research team used a simulated driving environment to investigate driving performance and found that individuals with stroke impairments exhibit greater motor variability, slowed movement time and greater motor perturbation that adversely affects their driving. Specifically, cars driven by stroke individuals exhibit greater skid. Overall, this work suggests that stroke-related motor deficits impair driving performance. They are currently investigating a visuomotor rehabilitation intervention to improve driving in stroke victims.

A Framework for Real Time Analysis of Drivers’ Body Motion Patterns using In-Cabin Depth Sensors

Angelos Barmpoutis, Ph.D.
On-Line Institute & Digital Worlds Institute
University of Florida

Dr. Barmpoutis’ research proposed a novel approach for studying the actual movements of drivers inside the vehicle when they were performing a specific maneuver type 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 were constructed as they were performing various driving maneuvers and as they were engaged in secondary tasks while driving. His team investigated 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.

Naturalistic & Simulated Experiments to Reduce Driver Distraction

Wanda Eugene, Ph.D.
Human Centered Computing Lab
Computer & Information Science & Engineering Department
University of Florida

The goal of user experience research is to build innovative solutions to real-world problems by integrating people, information, culture, policy, and technology to address societal issues. Dr. Eugene and her team study designing, building, and evaluating computing technologies as they relate to the human condition and reflect on how these technologies affect society. To better prepare drivers and designers for the future of transportation and to reduce driver distraction, in a series of studies, they set out to understand the human element in both simulated and naturalistic environments.

Effectiveness of a Driving Intervention on Safe Community Mobility for Returning Combat Veterans

Sandra Winters Ph.D.
Occupational Therapy
University of Florida

Dr. Winters’ study, funded by the Department of Defense, is studying the effectiveness of an occupational therapy driving intervention using a simulator. Returning combat veterans face increased motor vehicle crash and injury risk, and some report driving difficulty post-deployment. Simulator intervention has many benefits when addressing driving with veterans post-deployment. They are able to offer a replicable treatment protocol and use of simulation allows them to introduce situations which trigger driving difficulty and work through them in a safe manner.

Visual Search Strategies in Low vs. High Fidelity Environments
(also discussing NSF opportunities)

Laura Stanley, Ph.D., CPE
Mechanical & Industrial Engineering
Montana State University

Dr. Stanley’s presentation covered two primary topics. In the first talk she shared results from the recently completed NSF work on hazard perception and visual search strategies used among teen vs experienced drivers, specifically the optimal simulator parameters needed to study and/or train teen drivers on visual search. In the second talk, she shared the NSF opportunities that may be applicable to those studying transportation issues. Some of these include program solicitations from Cyber–Physical Systems, Cyber–Human Systems, and a recent Dear Colleague Letter on Smart and Connected Communities.