Improving the Ability of Drivers to Avoid Collision with Snowplows in Fog and Snow

Principal Investigator:

Albert Yonas, Professor, Child Development

Project Summary:

The researchers have created a laboratory test bed for investigating the effects of blowing snow, fog (luminance contrast), flashing warning lights, and color on the ability of drivers to perceive that they are approaching or withdrawing from a simulated vehicle. Findings indicate that lowering the luminance contrast between the image of a vehicle and the background greatly decreases a driver's ability to perceive approach. In a low-contrast, equiluminant situation, drivers required twice as much retinal motion as normal to begin to sense approach. Flashing lights, such as those mounted on snowplows to attract attention, also interfere with motion perception. The researchers plan to characterize completely the chromatic contrast effect of blowing snow and fog on the color space by making systematic physical measurements on a selected number of carefully chosen color surfaces. In addition, they will use a computer-controlled laboratory simulation, and well-understood psychophysical methods, to investigate the effect of vehicle color and lighting enhancements. For example, they will investigate the effects of the number, location, color, and flashing of warning lights on the ability to perceive that a driver is approaching a vehicle.Results will make it possible to form recommendations to increase the safety of Minnesota drivers.

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