Vias institute and Austria’s road safety institute, Kuratorium für Verkehrssicherheit (KFV), use an innovative method (eye tracking in a virtual driving environment) to investigate whether car drivers with and without motorcycle experience respond differently to motorcyclists in traffic.
Vias institute carried out a study in conjunction with the KFV. The aim of the study was to highlight differences in driving behaviour between car drivers with and without the experience of driving a motorcycle. To be able to research this in a controlled manner, the option was taken to conduct a driving simulator study in a Virtual Reality (VR) environment. Using VR as a research tool is relatively new. As part of this project we were also one of the first to use VR glasses that record eye movements. This makes Vias institute a pioneer in this particular research method.
Car drivers with and car drivers without a motorcycle licence took 5 short drives in a virtual driving environment while their eye movements and driving behaviour were measured. During these drives, they were confronted with typical accident situations between motorcyclists and car drivers. The results showed that car drivers with a motorcycle licence reacted differently in traffic compared with car drivers without a motorcycle licence. Those drivers with a licence had a more spread horizontal pattern of vision and looked more often and for longer at other road users (such as cars and pedestrians). When they were confronted with typical risk situations between cars and motorcyclists, they had a vision pattern that showed they were more careful. For instance, they spent more time looking at the motorcyclist and in some situations also detected him faster, too.
Vias institute was project manager for the study and developed the design of the test (in conjunction with the KFV). The hardware required (built-in eye tracking lenses in the VR glasses) was provided by SMI (Sensomotoric Instruments, Teltow, Germany). The technical support for developing the various scenarios for the VR environment was subcontracted to ActiveMe (Ottignies-Louvain-la-Neuve). The fieldwork was begun by Vias institute in Vienna and then continued by the KFV. Processing the data and analysing the results was carried out by Vias institute.