Scania research puts warning signs to the test

Working with German researchers, Scania has tested the brain activity of drivers as they hear warning alerts

Scania research puts warning signs to the test
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Swedish truck maker Scania has teamed up with a German research centre to examine how drivers react to warning sounds.

Held at the Max Planck Institute for Biological Cybernetics in Tübingen, Germany, the tests recorded the brain activity of 16 drivers as they drove a simulated stretch of road for 25 minutes and noted their ability to react to audible warnings.

Each driver drove the road twice as 12 different alert sounds were played a total of 20 times. When the driver heard the noise, they pressed a button.

Equipped with an electroencephalography (EEG) cap from the German company Brain Products, the driver’s scalps were fitted to 64 electrodes to measure the activity of different parts of the brain.

Technology often used to diagnose brain diseases, such as epilepsy, it was used to provide an insight into the suitability of certain sounds in eliciting the correct driver response.

"A warning sound prepares the driver for taking or avoiding an action," says Christiane Glatz, a doctoral student in cognitive neuroscience at the Max Planck Institute, who led the trial.

"A good warning sound should be understood immediately and without ambiguity. There should be no need for deep contemplation.

"Verbal commands can be understood clearly, but they might require more mental resources to process than auditory cues that we are familiar with.

"For example, we immediately recognise an ambulance siren and its changing pitch as an indication of its moving direction."

The problem though, as Glatz says, is the influence of cultural factors on a driver’s reaction.

"If a horn is sounded on German or Swedish roads we probably pay attention. But an Italian driver perhaps wouldn’t care at all," she says.

The analysis of the collected data is currently underway.



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