Road Safety News

Loughborough University to head up European driver behaviour experiment

Wednesday 6th April 2016

The ‘real behaviour’ of road users in Europe will be assessed ‘for the first time’ as part of a ‘naturalistic driving study’ involving Loughborough University.

The €10m collaborative study, funded by the European Commission, will observe the various aspects of driver and rider behaviour including acceleration, lane position, speed, eye movements, traffic densities and road conditions.

The ‘UDRIVE’ experiment involves monitoring cars, trucks and scooters for up to 21 months to collect data whenever the vehicle is in motion; in daylight, darkness and all weather conditions.

Loughborough University’s Driver Behaviour and Injury Prevention Research Group is leading on the UK data gathering, along with the Institute of Transport Studies at the University of Leeds.

30 cars will each be equipped with seven video cameras and a smart camera to provide external and internal views of the vehicle, including the driver’s face, hands, and feet.

The aim is to gain an ‘accurate and in-depth understanding of actual road user behaviour in a natural setting and analyse the relationship between driver/rider, vehicle, road and other traffic in a range of situations’.

The study will assess the risk of safety critical behaviour and eco driving and the results will be used to identify new measures which could make the European traffic system safer and more sustainable.

Ruth Welsh, a senior researcher at Loughborough University, said: “UDRIVE presents a fantastic opportunity to gain first-hand insight into drivers’ natural behaviour behind the wheel, harmonising data from other countries within the EU which have differing levels of road safety.

“By recording drivers continuously, we can analyse crash causation factors such as distraction (i.e. mobile phones) and interactions with vulnerable road users such as pedestrians and cyclists.

“It is the intention that post project the data will become a reliable source of information for subsequent analyses by road safety and environmental experts from all over the world.”

Dr Nicole Van Nes, co-ordinator of the UDRIVE project, said: “This naturalistic driving study offers the unique opportunity to study behaviours that we couldn’t study through other methods.

“In this study, we have effectively been able to look over the shoulder of the driver so that we can see the chain of events leading up to possible crashes. It also provides valuable insight into key safety topics such as fatigue and distraction, as well as dangerous driving behaviours.”

Click here to find out more about the study which will run until June 2017.


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I'm rather looking forward to the outcomes of this. So much of our understanding of driver behaviour comes from the theoretical, anecdotal or short-term observational and it's entirely possible that a long term study involving (one would expect) some fairly unobtrusive technology will tell us much that we didn't know; confirm a few things we did and dispute some of our misconceptions.

Lots of comment about the methodology here so worthwhile looking at their study statement for this here:

We are, this forum, principally behaviourists so this is exactly the sort of study we should be tracking and gearing up to exploit when it publishes its findings.
Jeremy Phillips (Devon)

Agree (2) | Disagree (1)

Running on from my comments on this thread I quote, 'This weakness is also reflected by the fact that almost no supervising drivers (parents, friends et al) use a secondary rear view mirror'. This also begs a question about the competence of the average driver to supervise learners. Recently I saw a learner under supervision parked on the opposite side of the road in two way traffic at night (and AKA THE HC, not in a recognised parking place - (Whoever thought that one up?)). How bad does it get? I hope there might be a thread here on this subject and then one could really get one's teeth into it.

Agree (3) | Disagree (1)

Is this department of Loughborough University the one featured on BBC1 Countryfile a while ago where there is a mini facing multiple large screens as simulator setup? This assumed that the only information relative to driving came from the front whereas at times anything possibly up to 50% (or even more on occasions) might come from the rear. It is quite impossible to assess driver behaviour and reactions to situations unless information from the rear is also taken into account, which effectively makes this setup void and suggests a seriousl lack of understanding by the people who set this up and are running it. This weakness is also reflected by the fact that almost no supervising drivers (parents, friends et al) use a secondary rear view mirror. And indeed many manufacturers seem to either reduce the size of the rear window and/or suitably obstruct the vision through it that they compound the situation.

Agree (4) | Disagree (2)

Hopefully they will ask a driver to follow a diversion route in Belgium, the resulting footage should provide hours of entertainment if nothing else?
Gareth, Surrey

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Having been shown some in-cab videos from HGVs then I would reckon that when drivers are aware that there is a camera recording their driving behaviours they may moderate their behaviours but not to a level where they do not "cause incidents"!
Nick, Lancashire

Agree (4) | Disagree (0)

I'm still interested to know who will be driving these cars. Are they volunteers, if not already connected with the scheme, at least involved with collision reduction and road safety or, a random cross-section of the motoring public? If it was random, then 30 vehicles may not be enough - on the other hand, if it were just individuals with a poor driving record, perhaps it's more than enough. Also, isn't 21 months rather a long time? A few weeks and a couple of thousand miles would be enough to show up bad habits and driver behaviour - good and bad.
Hugh Jones

Agree (3) | Disagree (8)

As far as I know, Matt's absolutely correct that the drivers soon forget there is a 'spy in the cab'. My concern is that 30 cars isn't a large sample at all. I'm guessing it's probably been selected as the minimum statiscally valid sample size, but I very much suspect that a much larger sample is needed to fully overcome the issues of small numbers.
Kevin Williams / Survival Skills Rider Training

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Hugh, based on previous studies it appears that people quickly forget that their driving is being monitored as the systems are not intrusive for the driver. I believe they have even termed it the "nose-picking factor". For reference there is a Q&A at the following link that you might be interested in
Matt Staton, Cambridgeshire

Agree (11) | Disagree (1)

It's an interesting idea in theory, but driving around with cameras and recorders monitoring and recording the driver's behaviour would bring about anything but 'naturalistic driving' I would have thought. Knowing one's behaviour behind the wheel is being analysed is bound to focus a driver's mind and sharpen up their concentration a bit more anyway (not a bad thing obviously) and may give results which are actually untypical of everyday driving.

Also, are the drivers going to be randomly chosen i.e with varying levels of competency? Equipping a car being driven by somebody who is accident- prone and naturally reckless or careless would no doubt be quite revealing and informative!
Hugh Jones

Agree (9) | Disagree (4)