Anuj K. Pradhan
University of Massachusetts - Amherst
Mechanical and Industrial Engineering



Virtual Reality Simulation to Evaluate Drivers’ Mental Models of Advanced Vehicle Technologies

Auto manufacturers are making advanced vehicle technologies readily available to drivers - from current Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS) to promises of Automated Driving Systems (ADS) (SAE 2018) in the near future. These technologies are designed to improve convenience and safety. To reap these benefits, it is paramount that drivers use the systems as intended, during appropriate situations, in appropriate environments, and with clear and accurate knowledge about what the systems can and cannot do. However, users are not well aware of systems’ capabilities, limitations, and Operational Design Domain, perhaps due to limited exposure to information (Singer & Jenness, 2020), resulting in weak initial mental models (Larsson, 2012), introducing misconceptions about system capabilities.
This research will conceptualize and prototype a head-mounted Virtual Reality (VR) simulation as a platform for measuring drivers’ interactions with vehicle technologies. We propose using VR simulation as the platform for presenting system interfaces and for measuring outcomes. Driving simulation is an important tool in human factors and transportation research and VR-headset based simulation is popular given advantages in cost, portability, image quality, and immersion (Johnston et al, 2018). Visualization of complex systems also benefits from these. VR can be used to provide visualization of vehicle features and to provide realistic use cases, including ‘edge case’ scenarios, for accessing these systems during an immersive driving task. VR simulators can also be used to observe and record driver behaviors during interactions with these vehicle technologies.