September 2015
Volume 15, Issue 12
Vision Sciences Society Annual Meeting Abstract  |   September 2015
Visual Perception and Illusions in a Driving Simulator - Little Cars, Big Signs
Author Affiliations
  • Stacy Balk
    Transportation Solutions and Technology Applications Division, Leidos
  • Vaughan Inman
    Transportation Solutions and Technology Applications Division, Leidos
  • William Perez
    Transportation Solutions and Technology Applications Division, Leidos
Journal of Vision September 2015, Vol.15, 417. doi:
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      Stacy Balk, Vaughan Inman, William Perez; Visual Perception and Illusions in a Driving Simulator - Little Cars, Big Signs. Journal of Vision 2015;15(12):417.

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      © ARVO (1962-2015); The Authors (2016-present)

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One of the tools that the United States Federal Highway Administration uses to evaluate highway infrastructure—signs, roadway markings, and geometric features—is a driving simulator. The nature of the research necessitates that important visual information is perceived similarly in the simulated world as in the real-world. Perceptual mismatches can lead to incorrect assumptions about driver behaviors and understanding of new or novel roadway designs. Because of limitations in simulator projector technology, and the lack of true depth in images projected onto a cylindrical scene, it is often necessary to adjust the size of projected objects. The objects may need to be scaled up or down relative to 1:1 equivalence of image projected on the retina in order to produce a detectable object or a desired apparent distance. For example, to achieve an appropriate legibility distance for highway signs, signs are scaled up to achieve a mean legibility distances of 1 inch of letter height per 60 feet of (simulated) viewing distance. On the other hand, to attain a 1:1 correspondence with real-world following distances between the subject vehicle and the vehicle ahead, simulated vehicles are scaled down to 75 percent of the correct retinal image size. The methods and theories for arriving at these scale factors are described. The need to scale up highway signs is believed to be related to resolution and contrast limitations of current technology projectors. The need to scale down vehicle sizes may be the result of a Ponzo illusion, in which the converging lines of highway lane markings distort the apparent size of vehicles ahead. Before using a driving stimulator to conduct studies of driver perception or behavior in response to out of vehicle stimuli, it is important to examine assumptions concerning the size of projected images and their detectability and perceived distance.

Meeting abstract presented at VSS 2015


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