Forward Collision Warning: Clues to Optimal Timing of Advisory Warnings 2016-01-1439
We examined the effectiveness of a heads-up Forward Collision Warning (FCW) system in 39 younger to middle aged drivers (25-50, mean = 35 years) and 37 older drivers (66-87, mean = 77 years). The warnings were implemented in a fixed based, immersive, 180 degree forward field of view simulator. The FCW included a visual advisory component consisting of a red horizontal bar which flashed in the center screen of the simulator that was triggered at time-to-collision (TTC) 4 seconds. The bar roughly overlapped the rear bumper of the lead vehicle, just below the driver’s line-of-sight. A sustained auditory tone (∼80 dB) was activated at TTC=2 to alert the driver to an imminent collision. Hence, the warning system differed from the industry standard in significant ways. 95% Confidence intervals for the safety gains ranged from -.03 to .19 seconds in terms of average correction time across several activations. Older and younger adults did not differ in terms of safety gains. Closer inspection of data revealed that younger to middle aged drivers were already braking (42%) on a larger proportion of FCW activations than older drivers (26%), p < .001. Conversely, older drivers were still accelerating (38%) on a larger proportion of FCW activations than younger to middle aged drivers (23%) at the time FCW was activated, p < .009. There were no differences in the proportion of activations when drivers were coasting at the time FCW was activated, p = .240. Furthermore, large individual differences in basic visual, motor, and cognitive function predicted the tendency to brake prior to FCW activation. Those who tended to be better functioning in each of these domains were more likely to be already braking prior to FCW activation at the fixed threshold of TTC=4. These findings suggest optimal timing for advisory alerts for forward events may need to be larger than TTC=4.