★ Estimates of time-to-arrival at the medial plane relies on angular motion alone. ★ Estimates of time-to-arrival in at the frontal plane (TTC/TTP), on the other hand, depend on both angular and looming motion. ★ Model results support a weighted tau computation for TTC/TTP. ★ Suggests different time-to-arrival mechanisms depending on the object trajectory.
Estimation of time-to-arrival for moving objects is critical to obstacle interception and avoidance, as well as to timing actions such as reaching and grasping moving objects. The source of motion information that conveys arrival time varies with the trajectory of the object raising the question of whether multiple context-dependent mechanisms are involved in this computation. To address this question we conducted a series of psychophysical studies to measure observers' performance on time-to-arrival estimation when object trajectory was specified by angular motion (“gap closure” trajectories in the frontoparallel plane), looming (colliding trajectories, TTC) or both (passage courses, TTP). We measured performance of time-to-arrival judgments in the presence of irrelevant motion, in which a perpendicular motion vector was added to the object trajectory. Data were compared to models of expected performance based on the use of different components of optical information. Our results demonstrate that for gap closure, performance depended only on the angular motion, whereas for TTC and TTP, both angular and looming motion affected performance. This dissociation of inputs suggests that gap closures are mediated by a separate mechanism than that used for the detection of time-to-collision and time-to-passage. We show that existing models of TTC and TTP estimation make systematic errors in predicting subject performance, and suggest that a model which weights motion cues by their relative time-to-arrival provides a better account of performance.