Do sport modes cause behavioral adaptation?

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A key question in transportation research is whether drivers show behavioral adaptation, that is, slower or faster driving, when new technology is introduced into the vehicle. This study investigates behavioral adaptation in response to the sport mode, a technology that alters the vehicle's auditory, throttle-mapping, power-steering, and chassis settings. Based on the literature, it can be hypothesized that the sport mode increases perceived sportiness and encourages faster driving. Oppositely, the sport mode may increase drivers’ perceived danger, homeostatically causing them to drive more slowly. These hypotheses were tested using an instrumented vehicle on a test track. Thirty-one drivers were asked to drive as they normally would with different sport mode settings: Baseline, Modified Throttle Mapping (MTM), Artificial Engine Sound enhancement (AESe), MTM and AESe combined (MTM-AESe), and MTM, AESe combined with four-wheel steering, increased damping, and decreased power steering (MTM-AESe-4WS). Post-trial questionnaires showed increased perceived sportiness but no differences in perceived danger for the three MTM conditions compared to Baseline. Furthermore, compared to Baseline, MTM led to higher vehicle accelerations and, with a smaller effect size, a higher time-percentage of driving above the 110 km/h speed limit, but not higher cornering speeds. The AESe condition did not significantly affect perceived sportiness, perceived danger, and driving speed compared to Baseline. These findings suggest that behavioral adaptation is a functional and opportunistic phenomenon rather than mediated by perceived sportiness or perceived danger.