Yield or not to yield? An inquiry into drivers’ behaviour when a fully automated vehicle indicates a lane-changing intention

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Automated vehicles have started to be integrated into the road transportation system and operate in a mixed traffic environment. To ensure a smooth and successful integration, it is vital to have a good understanding of the human factor challenges involved in the process, especially the issues related to other road users who will share roads with automated vehicles. The study focuses on conventional vehicle drivers’ acceptance of and interaction with fully automated vehicles (FAV). An online survey with experimental scenarios showing an FAV's lane-changing intention was designed to test the interaction responses of participants. The survey also collected the participants’ demographic information (e.g., age, gender, driving experience), self-reported general driving behaviours (e.g., errors, lapses and violations), past benchmark behaviour in the same situation and their acceptance of FAVs. The study recruited 838 participants in total, comprising 465 participants from Australia (216 males vs. 249 females) and 373 participants from China (172 males vs. 201 females). Ordered probit models were developed to predict three types of behavioural responses of drivers in the lane-changing scenario, i.e., positive, disregardful and aggressive responses. The results showed that older drivers, females, and drivers who had less driving experience were more likely to adopt positive interactions with FAVs than their counterparts. Drivers who reported frequent risky driving behaviours (e.g., aggressions, lapses and errors) were less likely to report positive interaction but more likely to report disregardful and aggressive interactions. Drivers reporting more positive/favourable attitudes and a higher trust toward FAVs demonstrated a higher possibility of positive interaction, and those with higher perceived behaviour control were more likely to restrain disregardful interaction. The study helps to form a greater understanding of conventional vehicle drivers’ perception of FAVs and the underlying factors that may influence their interaction behavioural tendency.