Optic Flow Speed Modulates Guidance Level Control: New Insights Into Two-Level Steering

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Abstract

Responding to changes in the road ahead is essential for successful driving. Steering control can be modeled using 2 complementary mechanisms: guidance control (to anticipate future steering requirements) and compensatory control (to stabilize position-in-lane). Drivers seem to rapidly sample the visual information needed for steering using active gaze patterns, but the way in which this perceptual information is combined remains unclear. Influential models of steering capture many steering behaviors using just ‘far’ and ‘near’ road regions to inform guidance and compensatory control respectively (Salvucci & Gray, 2004). However, optic flow can influence steering even when road-edges are visible (Kountouriotis, Mole, Merat, & Wilkie, 2016). Two experiments assessed whether flow selectively interacted with compensatory and/or guidance levels of steering control, under either unconstrained gaze or constrained gaze conditions. Optic flow speed was manipulated independent of the veridical road-edges so that use of flow would lead to predictable understeering or oversteering. Steering was found to systematically vary according to flow speed, but crucially the Flow-Induced Steering Bias (FISB) magnitude depended on which road-edge components were visible. The presence of a guidance signal increased the influence of flow, with the largest FISB in ‘Far’ and ‘Complete’ road conditions, whereas the smallest FISB was observed when only ‘Near’ road-edges were visible. Gaze behaviors influenced steering to some degree, but did not fully explain the interaction between flow and road-edges. Overall the experiments demonstrate that optic flow can act indirectly upon steering control by modulating the guidance signal provided by a demarcated path.

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