Project

Visual Strategies in Curve Driving (2015 - )

Goal: What visual cues are used to control speed and steering? How are they sampled by eye movements? Although driving and driver eye movements has been studied for decades, many of these most basic questions remain unknown.

Driving a car offers a natural ecologically valid task environment to study complex visuomotor control; the relatively simple 3D layout and reduced degrees of freedom make the task easier to parametrize, yet the task is challenging enough to allow study of all skill levels from novice (driving school) to expert (race driving).

Funded by the Finnish Cultural Foundation (grant 00150514 to OL) and the Henry Ford Foundation (to PR and RF).

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Otto Lappi
added a research item
What principles and mechanisms allow humans to encode complex 3D information, and how can it be so fast, so accurately and so flexibly transformed into coordinated action? How do these processes work when developed to the limit of human physiological and cognitive capacity—as they are in high-speed sports, such as alpine skiing or motor racing? High-speed sports present not only physical challenges, but present some of the biggest perceptual-cognitive demands for the brain. The skill of these elite athletes is in many ways an attractive model for studying human performance “in the wild”, and its neurocognitive basis. This article presents a framework theory for how these abilities may be realized in high-speed sports. It draws on a careful analysis of the case of the motorsport athlete, as well as theoretical concepts from: (1) cognitive neuroscience of wayfinding, steering, and driving; (2) cognitive psychology of expertise; (3) cognitive modeling and machine learning; (4) human-in-the loop modellling in vehicle system dynamics and human performance engineering; (5) experimental research (in the laboratory and in the field) on human visual guidance. The distinctive contribution is the way these are integrated, and the concept of chunking is used in a novel way to analyze a high-speed sport. The mechanisms invoked are domain-general, and not specific to motorsport or the use of a particular type of vehicle (or any vehicle for that matter); the egocentric chunking hypothesis should therefore apply to any dynamic task that requires similar core skills. It offers a framework for neuroscientists, psychologists, engineers, and computer scientists working in the field of expert sports performance, and may be useful in translating fundamental research into theory-based insight and recommendations for improving real-world elite performance. Specific experimental predictions and applicability of the hypotheses to other sports are discussed.
Otto Lappi
added a research item
Human performance in natural environments is deeply impressive, and still much beyond current AI. Experimental techniques, such as eye tracking, may be useful to understand the cognitive basis of this performance, and “the human advantage.” Driving is domain where these techniques may deployed, in tasks ranging from rigorously controlled laboratory settings through high-fidelity simulations to naturalistic experiments in the wild. This research has revealed robust patterns that can be reliably identified and replicated in the field and reproduced in the lab. The purpose of this review is to cover the basics of what is known about these gaze behaviors, and some of their implications for understanding visually guided steering. The phenomena reviewed will be of interest to those working on any domain where visual guidance and control with similar task demands is involved (e.g., many sports). The paper is intended to be accessible to the non-specialist, without oversimplifying the complexity of real-world visual behavior. The literature reviewed will provide an information base useful for researchers working on oculomotor behaviors and physiology in the lab who wish to extend their research into more naturalistic locomotor tasks, or researchers in more applied fields (sports, transportation) who wish to bring aspects of the real-world ecology under experimental scrutiny. Part of a Research Topic on Gaze Strategies in Closed Self-paced tasks, this aspect of the driving task is discussed. It is in particular emphasized why it is important to carefully separate the visual strategies driving (quite closed and self-paced) from visual behaviors relevant to other forms of driver behavior (an open-ended menagerie of behaviors). There is always a balance to strike between ecological complexity and experimental control. One way to reconcile these demands is to look for natural, real-world tasks and behavior that are rich enough to be interesting yet sufficiently constrained and well-understood to be replicated in simulators and the lab. This ecological approach to driving as a model behavior and the way the connection between “lab” and “real world” can be spanned in this research is of interest to anyone keen to develop more ecologically representative designs for studying human gaze behavior.
Otto Lappi
added a research item
This book gives you a completely new way to look at the art and science of motor racing: through the lens of fundamental cognitive mechanisms. Grounded in cutting-edge research, but assuming no prior knowledge of driving techniques or neuroscience, we break down the cognitive processes of the elite racing driver. Layer by layer the skills and expertise are revealed. Then, the sophisticated brain mechanisms behind it all get explained in clear and non-technical terms. Written by a cognitive scientist and a race driver performance analyst, fully referenced, and illustrated with 32 figures, this book gives you information you won't find anywhere else. (Companion website: https://www.racersbrain.org/)
Otto Lappi
added 2 research items
Skillful behavior requires the anticipation of future action requirements. This is particularly true during high-speed locomotor steering where solely detecting and correcting current error is insufficient to produce smooth and accurate trajectories. Anticipating future steering requirements could be supported using "model-free" prospective signals from the scene ahead or might rely instead on model-based predictive control solutions. The present study generated conditions whereby the future steering trajectory was specified using a breadcrumb trail of waypoints, placed at regular intervals on the ground to create a predictable course (a repeated series of identical "S-bends"). The steering trajectories and gaze behavior relative to each waypoint were recorded for each participant (N = 16). To investigate the extent to which drivers predicted the location of future waypoints, "gaps" were included (20% of waypoints) whereby the next waypoint in the sequence did not appear. Gap location was varied relative to the S-bend inflection point to manipulate the chances that the next waypoint indicated a change in direction of the bend. Gaze patterns did indeed change according to gap location, suggesting that participants were sensitive to the underlying structure of the course and were predicting the future waypoint locations. The results demonstrate that gaze and steering both rely upon anticipation of the future path consistent with some form of internal model.
Negative effects of inattention on task performance can be seen in many contexts of society and human behavior, such as traffic, work, and sports. In traffic, inattention is one of the most frequently cited causal factors in accidents. In order to identify inattention and mitigate its negative effects, there is a need for quantifying attentional demands of dynamic tasks, with a credible basis in cognitive modeling and neuroscience. Recent developments in cognitive science have led to theories of cognition suggesting that brains are an advanced prediction engine. The function of this prediction engine is to support perception and action by continuously matching incoming sensory input with top-down predictions of the input, generated by hierarchical models of the statistical regularities and causal relationships in the world. Based on the capacity of this predictive processing framework to explain various mental phenomena and neural data, we suggest it also provides a plausible theoretical and neural basis for modeling attentional demand and attentional capacity “in the wild” in terms of uncertainty and prediction error. We outline a predictive processing approach to the study of attentional demand and inattention in driving, based on neurologically-inspired theories of uncertainty processing and experimental research combining brain imaging, visual occlusion and computational modeling. A proper understanding of uncertainty processing would enable comparison of driver's uncertainty to a normative level of appropriate uncertainty, and thereby improve definition and detection of inattentive driving. This is the necessary first step toward applications such as attention monitoring systems for conventional and semi-automated driving.
Otto Lappi
added a research item
Active visual scanning of the scene is a key task-element in all forms of human locomotion. In the field of driving, steering (lateral control) and speed adjustments (longitudinal control) models are largely based on drivers’ visual inputs. Despite knowledge gained on gaze behaviour behind the wheel, our understanding of the sequential aspects of the gaze strategies that actively sample that input remains restricted. Here, we apply scan path analysis to investigate sequences of visual scanning in manual and highly automated simulated driving. Five stereotypical visual sequences were identified under manual driving: forward polling (i.e. far road explorations), guidance, backwards polling (i.e. near road explorations), scenery and speed monitoring scan paths. Previously undocumented backwards polling scan paths were the most frequent. Under highly automated driving backwards polling scan paths relative frequency decreased, guidance scan paths relative frequency increased, and automation supervision specific scan paths appeared. The results shed new light on the gaze patterns engaged while driving. Methodological and empirical questions for future studies are discussed.
Otto Lappi
added an update
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Otto Lappi
added a research item
It is well-established how visual stimuli and self-motion in laboratory conditions reliably elicit retinal-image-stabilizing compensatory eye movements (CEM). Their organization and roles in natural-task gaze strategies is much less understood: are CEM applied in active sampling of visual information in human locomotion in the wild? If so, how? And what are the implications for guidance? Here, we directly compare gaze behavior in the real world (driving a car) and a fixed base simulation steering task. A strong and quantifiable correspondence between self-rotation and CEM counter-rotation is found across a range of speeds. This gaze behavior is “optokinetic”, i.e. optic flow is a sufficient stimulus to spontaneously elicit it in naïve subjects and vestibular stimulation or stereopsis are not critical. Theoretically, the observed nystagmus behavior is consistent with tracking waypoints on the future path, and predicted by waypoint models of locomotor control - but inconsistent with travel point models, such as the popular tangent point model.
Otto Lappi
added 3 research items
Understanding the brain's capacity to encode complex visual information from a scene and to transform it into a coherent perception of 3D space and into well-coordinated motor commands are among the outstanding questions in the study of integrative brain function. Eye movement methodologies have allowed us to begin addressing these questions in increasingly naturalistic tasks, where eye and body movements are ubiquitous and, therefore, the applicability of most traditional neuroscience methods restricted. This review explores foundational issues in (1) how oculomotor and motor control in lab experiments extrapolates into more complex settings and (2) how real-world gaze behavior in turn decomposes into more elementary eye movement patterns. We review the received typology of oculomotor patterns in laboratory tasks, and how they map onto naturalistic gaze behavior (or not). We discuss the multiple coordinate systems needed to represent visual gaze strategies, how the choice of reference frame affects the description of eye movements, and the related but conceptually distinct issue of coordinate transformations between internal representations within the brain.
This is, in a more easily printable layout, the contents of the Supplementary Table 1 in Lappi, O. (2015.) The Racer’s Brain – How Domain Expertise is Reflected in the Neural Substrates of Driving. Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, http://dx.doi.org/10.3389/fnhum.2015.00635
A major unresolved question in understanding visually guided locomotion in humans is whether actions are driven solely by the immediately available optical information (model-free online control mechanisms), or whether internal models have a role in anticipating the future path. We designed two experiments to investigate this issue, measuring spontaneous gaze behaviour while steering, and predictive gaze behaviour when future path information was withheld. In Experiment 1 participants (N=15) steered along a winding path with rich optic flow: gaze patterns were consistent with tracking waypoints on the future path 1–3 s ahead. In Experiment 2, participants (N=12) followed a path presented only in the form of visual waypoints located on an otherwise featureless ground plane. New waypoints appeared periodically every 0.75 s and predictably 2 s ahead, except in 25% of the cases the waypoint at the expected location was not displayed. In these cases, there were always other visible waypoints for the participant to fixate, yet participants continued to make saccades to the empty, but predictable, waypoint locations (in line with internal models of the future path guiding gaze fixations). This would not be expected based upon existing model-free online steering control models, and strongly points to a need for models of steering control to include mechanisms for predictive gaze control that support anticipatory path following behaviours.
Otto Lappi
added a research item
The exceptional performance of elite practitioners in domains like sports or chess is not a reflection of just exceptional general cognitive ability or innate sensorimotor superiority. Decades of research on expert performance has consistently shown that experts in all fields go to extraordinary lengths to acquire their perceptual-cognitive and motor abilities. Deliberate Practice (DP) refers to special (sub)tasks that are designed to give immediate and accurate feedback and performed repetitively with the explicit goal of improving performance. DP is generally agreed to be one of the key ingredients in acquisition of expertise (not necessarily the only one). Analyzing in detail the specific aspects of performance targeted by DP procedures may shed light on the underlying cognitive processes that support expert performance. Document analysis of professional coaching literature is one knowledge elicitation method that can be used in the early phases of inquiry to glean domain information about the skills experts in a field are required to develop. In this study this approach is applied to the domain of motor racing-specifically the perceptual-cognitive expertise enabling high-speed curve negotiation. A systematic review procedure is used to establish a corpus of texts covering the entire 60 years of professional motorsport textbooks. Descriptions of specific training procedures (that can be unambiguously interpreted as DP procedures) are extracted, and then analyzed within the hierarchical task analysis framework driver modeling. Hypotheses about the underlying cognitive processes are developed on the basis of this material. In the traditional psychological literature, steering and longitudinal control are typically considered "simple" reactive tracking tasks (model-free feedback control). The present findings suggest that-as in other forms expertise-expert level driving skill is in fact dependent on vast body of knowledge, and driven by top-down information. The knowledge elicitation in this study represents a first step toward a deeper psychological understanding of the complex cognitive underpinnings of expert performance in this domain.
Otto Lappi
added a research item
The authors present an approach to the coordination of eye movements and locomotion in naturalistic steering tasks. It is based on recent empirical research, in particular, in driver eye movements, that poses challenges for existing accounts of how we visually steer a course. They first analyze how the ideas of feedback and feedforward processes and internal models are treated in control theoretical steering models within vision science and engineering, which share an underlying architecture but have historically developed in very separate ways. The authors then show how these traditions can be naturally (re)integrated with each other and with contemporary neuroscience, to better understand the skill and gaze strategies involved. They then propose a conceptual model that (a) gives a unified account to the coordination of gaze and steering control, (b) incorporates higher-level path planning, and (c) draws on the literature on paired forward and inverse models in predictive control. Although each of these (a– c) has been considered before (also in the context of driving), integrating them into a single framework and the authors’ multiple waypoint identification hypothesis within that framework are novel. The proposed hypothesis is relevant to all forms of visually guided locomotion. http:// doi.org./10.1037/bul0000150
Otto Lappi
added 3 research items
A fundamental question in human brain plasticity is how sensory, motor, and cognitive functions adapt in the process of skill acquisition extended over a period of many years. Recently, there has emerged a growing interest in cognitive neuroscience on studying the functional and structural differences in the brains of elite athletes. Elite performance in sports, music, or the arts, allows us to observe sensorimotor and cognitive performance at the limits of human capability. In this mini-review, we look at driving expertise. The emerging brain imaging literature on the neural substrates of real and simulated driving is reviewed (for the first time), and used as the context for interpreting recent findings on the differences between racing drivers and non-athlete controls. Also the cognitive psychology and cognitive neuroscience of expertise are discussed.
Driving is a ubiquitous visual task, and in many ways an attractive model system for studying skilled visuomotor actions in the real world. In curve driving, several steering models have been proposed to account for the way drivers invariably orient gaze towards the future path (FP) and/or the tangent point (TP). For twenty years ”steering by the tangent point” (Land & Lee, Nature, 1994) has been the dominant hypothesis for interpreting driving gaze data, and the textbook account of vision in curve negotiation. However, using some novel methods for analyzing real world gaze data, a number of studies from our group have recently undermined the generality of the TP hypothesis, supporting instead the FP models (Lappi et al., J Vis, 2013; Lappi, Pekkanen & Itkonen, PLOS ONE, 2013; Itkonen, Pekkanen & Lappi, PLOS ONE, 2015; review: Lappi, J Vis, 2014). This presentation integrates the findings of these experiments, along with some previously unpublished results, and presents on their basis a theoretical framework of oculomotor control in visually oriented locomotion. The framework is neurologically grounded, and consistent with current computational theories of visuomotor control as well existing neuroimaging work on the neural substrates of driving (Lappi, Front Hum Neurosci, 2015).
In this paper we present and qualitatively analyze an expert driver’s gaze behaviour in natural driving on a real road, with no specific experimental task or instruction. Previous eye tracking research on naturalistic tasks has revealed recurring patterns of gaze behaviour that are surprisingly regular and repeatable. Lappi (doi: 10.1016/j.neubiorev.2016.06.006) identified in the literature seven “qualitative laws of gaze behaviour in the wild”: recurring patterns that tend to go together, the more so the more naturalistic the setting, all of them expected in extended sequences of fully naturalistic behaviour. However, to date no study to date has observed all in a single experiment. Here, we wanted to do just that: present observations supporting all the “laws” in a single behavioural sequence by a single subject. We discuss the laws in terms of unresolved issues in driver modelling and open challenges for experimental and theoretical development.
Otto Lappi
added a project goal
What visual cues are used to control speed and steering? How are they sampled by eye movements? Although driving and driver eye movements has been studied for decades, many of these most basic questions remain unknown.
Driving a car offers a natural ecologically valid task environment to study complex visuomotor control; the relatively simple 3D layout and reduced degrees of freedom make the task easier to parametrize, yet the task is challenging enough to allow study of all skill levels from novice (driving school) to expert (race driving).
Funded by the Finnish Cultural Foundation (grant 00150514 to OL) and the Henry Ford Foundation (to PR and RF).