Communications Project

Document Type:Master's Thesis
Name:John Winters
Title:An Investigation of Auditory Icons and Brake Response Times in a Commercial Truck-Cab Environment
Degree:Master of Science
Committee Chair: Dr. John Casali
Committee Members:Dr. Gary Robinson
Dr. Tom Dingus
Keywords:Human Factors, Auditory Displays, Auditory Icons, Commercial Vehicle Operations, Intelligent Trasportation Systems, Haptic Displays, Soft Braking, Brake Response, Collision Warning
Date of defense:February 16, 1998
Availability:Release the entire work immediately worldwide.


In the driving task, vision, hearing, and the haptic senses are all used by the driver to gather required information. Future Intelligent Transportation Systems components are likely to further increase the volume of information available to or required by the driver, particularly in the case of commercial vehicle operators. The use of alternate modalities to present in-vehicle information is a possible solution to the potential overload of the visual channel. Auditory icons have been shown to improve operator performance and decrease learning and response times, not only in industrial applications, but also as emergency braking warnings. The use of auditory icons in commercial truck cabs has the potential to increase the number of auditory displays that can be distinguished and understood by commercial vehicle operators, and this experiment sought to determine the utility of auditory icons in that situation.

Nine auditory icons were evaluated by commercial vehicle operators as they drove an experimental vehicle over public roads. A comparison of the data collected in the truck-cab environment to data collected in a laboratory study on the same auditory icons revealed some differences in the perceived meaning, perceived urgency, and association with the auditory icons' intended meanings between the two conditions. The presence of these differences indicates that driver evaluations of auditory icons can be affected by the environment, and testing should therefore be conducted in a situation that approximates the end-user environment as closely as possible.

A comparison of the drivers' brake response times across the three warning conditions (no warning, auditory icon, and soft braking) was also conducted on a closed, secure handling course. Dependent measures included overall brake reaction time and its components, steering response time, time to initial driver action, and categorical measures of driver responses (steering, swerving, braking, and stopping).

The results indicated numerically shorter mean response times (on the order of 0.5 seconds for Total Brake Response Time) for the two conditions with warnings, but the differences were not statistically significant. The most likely reason for this lack of significance is the extreme between-subject variability in response times in the no warning condition. An analysis of the response time variance across the three conditions did indicate significantly less variability in operator responses in the two warning conditions. Two of the five dependent measures (Brake Pedal Contact Time and Total Brake Response Time) exhibited significantly reduced variance in the auditory icon warning condition compared to the no warning condition. The soft braking warning condition exhibited significantly reduced variance for four of the dependent measures (Accelerator Reaction Time, Brake Pedal Contact Time, Total Brake Response Time, and First Reaction Time). These results indicate that a soft braking stimulus like that used in this study could potentially prove to be a more effective emergency braking warning than simple auditory warnings alone.

List of Attached Files

1-automatic_toll_payment.wav 2-children_ahead.wav 3-emer_braking_wrng.wav
4-hi_engine_temp.wav 5-rr_xing_ahead.wav 6-roadwork_ahead.wav
7-emer_vehicle_appr.wav 8-incoming_voice_msg.wav 9-roadside_mowing_ahead.wav
Low_fuel.wav etd.pdf

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