Emotions and autonomous driving

It is well established that emotions play a role in how drivers appraise and behave across different driving environments. In particular, when angry, drivers tend to make more hostile evaluations of others’ intentions and react aggressively. In contrast, anxious drivers, tend to adopt more cautious driving styles, often resulting in slower speeds, more driving errors or avoidance of certain anxiety-provoking situations. What is less clear is how emotions will influence autonomous driving, particularly at the levels that will still require driver monitoring and take-over. Research on manual driving suggests that drivers will evaluate the driving situation, or the autonomous behaviour of the vehicle. differently according to their anger or anxiety tendencies or their current mood state. This is likely to be the same in autonomous driving, however there are limited empirical data to support this suggestion. This project will examine this question directly, using the MUARC driving simulator. The initial stage will involve a literature review focusing on emotion, sustained attention, appraisal and action tendencies. The empirical component will involve a series of studies conducted in the driving simulator, to explore in greater detail the relationships between mood, situational awareness and safe driving. The design of these studies will be heavily influenced by the literature review.

This thesis would be supervised by Dr Amanda Stephens and Assoc Prof Sjaan Koppel.

Learn more about our Human Factors and Sustainable Safety team