Driver Vigilance in Automated Vehicles: Hazard Detection Failures Are a Matter of Time

Eric T. Greenlee, Patricia R. DeLucia, David C. Newton

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

58 Scopus citations


Objective: The primary aim of the current study was to determine whether monitoring the roadway for hazards during automated driving results in a vigilance decrement. Background: Although automated vehicles are relatively novel, the nature of human-automation interaction within them has the classic hallmarks of a vigilance task. Drivers must maintain attention for prolonged periods of time to detect and respond to rare and unpredictable events, for example, roadway hazards that automation may be ill equipped to detect. Given the similarity with traditional vigilance tasks, we predicted that drivers of a simulated automated vehicle would demonstrate a vigilance decrement in hazard detection performance. Method: Participants “drove” a simulated automated vehicle for 40 minutes. During that time, their task was to monitor the roadway for roadway hazards. Results: As predicted, hazard detection rate declined precipitously, and reaction times slowed as the drive progressed. Further, subjective ratings of workload and task-related stress indicated that sustained monitoring is demanding and distressing and it is a challenge to maintain task engagement. Conclusion: Monitoring the roadway for potential hazards during automated driving results in workload, stress, and performance decrements similar to those observed in traditional vigilance tasks. Application: To the degree that vigilance is required of automated vehicle drivers, performance errors and associated safety risks are likely to occur as a function of time on task. Vigilance should be a focal safety concern in the development of vehicle automation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)465-476
Number of pages12
JournalHuman Factors
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jun 1 2018


  • driver behavior
  • fatigue
  • human-automation interaction
  • vehicle automation
  • vigilance


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