Making the roads and skies safer with eye tracking

  • by Dr. Marisa Bondi
  • 4 min

Webinar on traffic safety

Tobii recently hosted a webinar with three presentations on driver and pilot transportation safety.

The presenters used our wearable eye tracker Tobii Pro Glasses 3 in real-world driving and flying scenarios during the day and night, as well as in various simulated environments to capture gaze behavior and understand visual attention.

The research revealed the potential for a safer future for transportation, the importance of visibility and road sign quality for drivers, the challenges in aircraft detection, and solutions for accident reduction and enhanced training for air traffic controllers.

Tobii Pro Glasses 3 - riding a motorcycle

Driver Transportation Safety Research

Dr. Dario Babic, PhD, Assistant Professor, University of Zagreb. Eye tracking studies on driver behavior.

Pedestrian Conspicuity Study

In a real-world study on driving at night, drivers noticed pedestrians wearing neon reflective vests around five times further away than to those in plain or dark clothes, emphasizing the importance of visibility for pedestrian safety. Neon reflective vests were noticed on average 200-250m away, and plain/dark clothes were noticed 30-50m away. Drivers also fixated more on the reflective vests, meaning the vests’ visibility actively engaged the drivers’ concentration and perception.

Impact of Road Signs on Driver Comfort

During a simulated driving activity, Dr. Babic found that better quality road signs lead to increased driver comfort and cognitive engagement, while lower visibility conditions were linked to decreased cognitive activity and comfort.

Driver Distraction in Urban Environments

A simulated study revealed just how much of a distraction mobile phones are because they significantly decrease the number of road signs seen, with other activities creating varying levels of visual distraction.

Motorcycle Safety

In a real study of motorcyclists on a rural road, Dr. Babic tested new signs and increased reflective markers to serve as an enhanced warning system for motorcyclists. Results showed a high percentage of riders (~80%) noticing the new signs, leading to suggestions for more effective markings and signs.

Unfamiliar Road Sign Designs

A lab-based experiment proved that simpler road sign designs led to increased road safety. More complex designs attracted greater attention but could be less well understood due to unfamiliarity.

Understanding how drivers visually scan the environment is the basis for developing innovative road safety solutions and measures.
Pilot flying a plane

Pilot Transportation Safety Research

Dylan Amerson, Research Engineer, Raspet Flight Research Laboratory, Mississippi State University. Pilot visual acquisition performance.

Detect and Avoid Systems

This research focused on alternative methods of alerting pilots of nearby aircraft. It examined pilot behavior such as spotting aircraft, distractions, and the impact of various encounters. Dylan’s team aimed to characterize the performance of a human pilot to serve as a baseline for how an automated system would work.

Pilot Visual Acquisition Performance

This study revealed that below a one nautical mile range, there is a drastic reduction in the ability of a pilot to see other aircraft. Dylan explained, “Even at small range below a quarter of a nautical mile, not even 50% of aircraft were seen during testing.”

Tobii Pro Glasses in Cockpit Scanning

Usage in real cockpits improved the understanding of how pilots scan their surroundings. Future research will observe understanding the impact of participant variables like age and experience, and examination of environmental factors such as glare and in-cockpit traffic advisories.

Technological Advancements

Using close to 5 million simulated encounters revealed the importance of messages of nearby aircraft being displayed to pilots quickly within in their flight space for better outcomes.

How do size and speed [of the intruder aircraft] affect the pilot’s ability to spot these aircraft?
Professional Performance Air Traffic Control 2_1

Air Traffic Control (ATC) Safety Research

Dr. Ziho Kang, PhD., Associate Professor, University of Oklahoma. Visual scanning patterns in VR airport tower simulations.

Physical Virtual Reality Environment

Dr. Kang’s data was collected at the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) lab, which is a real space with simulated backdrop to look like an airport tower. It is not a fully immersive VR, but a physical VR environment with large displays connected for practice and training scenarios for air traffic controllers.

ATC Visual Scanning Patterns

This eye movement data was collected from veteran ATCs and modeled on areas of interest. Dr. Kang could see specific patterns of movement between the AOIs while ATCs communicate with aircraft, which are insights that could potentially reduce accidents and aid in novice training. He also employed directed weighted network processes to cluster visual scanning patterns and calculate visual entropy, offering insights into controllers' behavior and eye movement variability.

We were able to collect eye movements [from veteran air traffic controllers] to investigate their visual scanning patterns, to see whether we could cluster visual scanning patterns & find meaningful outputs to help reduce possible accidents and better train novices.

Get in touch

Interested in finding out more about eye tracking, Tobii’s cutting-edge products or how we can help you with your research? Reach out to us today.

Written by

  • Tobii Pro employee Dr. Marisa Bondi

    Dr. Marisa Bondi

    Senior Research Scientist, tobii

    Dr. Biondi focuses on building an eye tracking community through partnerships with researchers hoping to implement eye tracking in their work and by supporting existing customers in acquiring knowledge or additional grants. Dr. Biondi has a Ph.D. in Psychological & Brain Sciences from Texas A&M University and used fNIRS and eye tracking to study the functional organization of the developing human brain.

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