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University of Iowa News Release


Jan. 29, 2010

UI researchers study use of adaptive cruise control at driving simulator

A team of University of Iowa College of Engineering researchers has received an 18-month, $630,000 contract from the U.S. Department of Transportation, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), to study how drivers interact with adaptive cruise control (ACC).

The study involves recruiting up to 100 licensed drivers between the ages of 18 and 80 who drive a Toyota Sienna XLE, model year 2004 or later; a Toyota Avalon, model year 2005 or later; or a Lexus RX, model year 2005 or later, that is equipped with ACC to take part in a two-and-one-half-hour visit to the National Advanced Driving Simulator (NADS) in Coralville, Iowa. Drivers of these vehicle models must have experience using their ACC systems. Drivers who would like to participate in this or future studies can learn more by visiting or by calling the NADS hotline at 319-335-4719. Participants will be compensated.

Adaptive cruise control, widely available since 2001, is an advanced version of cruise control that allows drivers to maintain a pre-set speed while the system automatically monitors traffic patterns and adjusts inter-vehicle distance by using the throttle and the brakes to maintain a pre-set distance behind the vehicle ahead.

Jane Moeckli, project principal investigator and research assistant at the UI Center for Computer Aided Design's National Advanced Driving Simulator, where the study will be conducted, said that the project is aimed at learning how ACC can be made safer for drivers.

"The lack of knowledge regarding ACC's operation presents challenges to safe vehicle operation," she said. "Errors are made when users do not know when to take over from the automatic control and when users become less attentive to the driving task and more reliant on the automated system. Therefore, drivers are less equipped to address time-sensitive, critical-driving situations that exceed the system's limits."

The research project will place test drivers with ACC experience behind the wheel in a simulated driving environment and attempt to:

--Determine whether drivers react appropriately when the system's safety limits are about to be exceeded.
--Learn whether drivers have usage and error patterns in common.
--Recommend corrective measures, if error patterns are found.

Moeckli said that because the effectiveness of countermeasures often depends on driver acceptance, survey instruments would be used to determine which potential countermeasures drivers perceive to be the most meaningful and useful.

NADS, located at the University of Iowa Research Park, is the most sophisticated research-driving simulator in the world. Developed by NHTSA, it offers the highest fidelity real-time driving simulation experience in the world.

STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa News Services, 300 Plaza Centre One, Suite 371, Iowa City, Iowa 52242-2500.

MEDIA CONTACT: Gary Galluzzo, 319-384-0009,