Changes of driving performance and gaze behavior of novice drivers during a 30-min simulator-based training

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Previous research has shown that novice drivers have underdeveloped vehicle control skills and visual search strategies that differ from those of experienced drivers. However, little is known about how novices’ driving performance and gaze behavior jointly change over the course of practice. In this paper, we investigated changes in driving performance and gaze behavior of 52 novice drivers while gaining experience in the simulator. The participants completed four sessions of 6 to 8 minutes on a rural road containing multiple 90-degree curves, and their task was to drive as close as possible to the center of the right lane. The results showed that the standard deviation of lateral position (SDLP) and steering activity significantly reduced from the first to the fourth session. The eye-tracking data showed that participants increased their spread of visual search and reduced gaze tunneling. Participants’ self-reported workload decreased from the first to the fourth session. Additionally, our results demonstrate that participants increased their gaze tunneling as a function of driving speed. In conclusion, during the first approximately 30 minutes of driving experience in a driving simulator, SDLP decreases, gaze variance increases, and self-reported workload decreases. These results indicate that short-term changes in driver skill and visual behavior of novice drivers can be detected using driving simulators.