Visual information and skill level in time-to-collision estimation

Perception. 1988;17(5):623-32. doi: 10.1068/p170623.


Previous studies on the visual origin of time-to-collision (Tc) information have demonstrated that Tc estimates can be based solely on the processing of target expansion rate (optic variable tau). But in the simulated situations used (film clips), there was little reliable information on speed (owing to reduced peripheral vision) and distance (owing to the absence of binocular distance cues) available. In order to determine whether these kinds of information are also taken into account, it is necessary to take an approach where the subject receives a more complete visual input. Thus, an experiment conducted on a circuit under actual driving conditions is reported. Experienced drivers and beginners, who were passengers in a car, had to indicate the moment they expected a collision with a stationary obstacle to take place. Subjects were blindfolded after a viewing time of 3 s. The conditions for speed evaluation (normal versus restricted visual field) and distance evaluation (binocular versus monocular vision) by subjects were varied. The approach speed (30 and 90 km h-1) and actual Tc (3 and 6 s) were also varied. The results show that accuracy of Tc estimation increased with (i) normal visual field, (ii) binocular vision, (iii) higher speeds, and (iv) driving experience. These findings have been interpreted as indicating that both speed and distance information are taken into account in Tc estimation. They suggest furthermore that these two kinds of information may be used differently depending on the skill level of the subject. The results are discussed in terms of the complementarity of the various potentially usable visual means of obtaining Tc information.

MeSH terms

  • Acceleration
  • Accidents, Traffic*
  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Automobile Driving*
  • Distance Perception*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Motion Perception*
  • Time Perception*
  • Vision, Monocular
  • Visual Fields