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Research project: Encouraging eco-driving with multisensory feed-forward and feedback information

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The effect of driving style on fuel-efficiency is well established. This EngD project focuses on how we might encourage more fuel-efficient driving styles through different in-vehicle information presentation methods, particularly focussing on the effect of information presented through different sensory channels, i.e. visual, auditory and haptic (of or relating to the sense of touch).

In the UK, the transport sector contributes a disproportionately large amount to CO2-induced climate change; this is particularly true for private road vehicles. Technological advancement is critical to the mitigation of climate change and the over-usage of resources; however, we must also change our behaviour. The way in which a car is driven has a significant effect on the amount of fuel that is used. The question is, therefore, how can we encourage energy-conserving driving behaviours? While there have been a number of studies investigating the use of visual tools to help drivers save fuel, with varying success rates, each of these tools carry with them the issue of visual distraction. Considering that usage of the accelerator and decelerator pedals is a haptic task (i.e. of or relating to the sense of touch), can we provide information haptically to guide the driver’s behaviour? To address these questions, a driving-simulator based study is planned that will make use of variety of different information presentation methods, including visual, auditory and haptic information, and all combinations thereof.

The University of Southampton's driving simulator
Driving simulator

The aim is twofold; to discourage excessive depression of the accelerator pedal when accelerating (which is bad for fuel-efficiency) and to inform the driver of the optimum time to remove their foot from the accelerator pedal in advance of braking events (e.g. a red traffic light), so as to take full advantage of the momentum of the vehicle, reducing the amount of harsh braking and subsequent acceleration. Information on these driving aspects will be provided through different sensory channels, namely auditory, visual and haptic, and in all combinations thereof. It is hypothesised that haptic information, provided at the site of control (i.e. through the accelerator pedal) will better support eco-driving skill acquisition, whilst reducing the chance of distraction in the vehicle, than will the same information provided through the visual or auditory channels.


McIlroy, R.C., Stanton, N.A. & Harvey, C. (2013). Getting drivers to do the right thing: a review of the potential for safely reducing energy consumption through design. IET Intelligent Transport Systems, in press.

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Related research groups

Transportation Group
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