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The Peripheral Detection Task (PDT) : On-line measurement of driver cognitive workload and selective attention

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Author: Horst, A.R.A. van der · Martens, M.H.
Publisher: SAE International
Place: Warrendale
Source:Rupp, G.L., Performance metrics for Assessing Driver Distraction: The Questfor Improved Road Safety, 73-89
Identifier: 426327
Keywords: traffic · Traffic safety · Attention · Distraction · Workload · Driver behaviour · Human · PCS - Perceptual and Cognitive Systems · BSS - Behavioural and Societal Sciences


Peaks in workload while driving might have immediate safety implications. The Peripheral Detection Task (PDT) has shown to be a sensitive objective workload measure. Drivers have to respond to the onset of a peripherally presented simple visual stimulus (red square or LED) by pressing a finger switch, on average, once every 4 seconds. The more demanding the task, the more cues are missed and the longer the response times to the PDT. This chapter focuses on measuring driver’s cognitive workload by the PDT and shows the method’s sensitivity for measuring variations in workload dependent on road and driving conditions or driving while interacting with in-vehicle devices. These examples include both driving simulator and on-the-road studies and their results favor the ‘cognitive tunneling’ hypothesis (in contrast to perceptual tunneling), viz. that the PDT especially measures the (cognitive) selectivity of attention.