Carrot and stick: A game-theoretic approach to motivate cooperative driving through social interaction

Markus Zimmermann*, David Schopf, Niklas Lütteken, Zhengzhenni Liu, Konrad Storost, Martin Baumann, Riender Happee, Klaus J. Bengler

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

45 Citations (Scopus)
34 Downloads (Pure)


This driving-simulator study aimed to motivate cooperative lane-change maneuvers in automated freeway driving under human supervision. Two interaction concepts were designed based on game theory. These concepts supported drivers’ cooperation by applying both rewards and sanctions as the proverbial carrot and stick. The social-status interaction rewards gap creation by revealing a driver's prior cooperative behavior to other road users. The trade-off interaction introduces a system in which points compensate time loss and gain. Both concepts were evaluated from the left- and right-lane perspective, framing 39 participants to “be fast.” Drivers in the right lane asked those in the left lane to open a gap to overtake, mediated through a vehicle-to-vehicle connection and an augmented-reality user interface. Only 67% of the merging requests were accepted by left-lane drivers due to time pressure in the baseline condition. The social-status interaction enhanced acceptance to 86% on average and even to 97% for requests made by drivers marked as cooperative. The trade-off interaction enhanced acceptance to 87% as drivers gained a virtual benefit for losing one second. The subjective evaluation was positive for all conditions, and the social concepts were rated significantly higher on items associated with social relationships. Both social interaction concepts motivate cooperation and shape drivers’ behavior even under time pressure. Social mechanisms power maneuver-based local cooperation between traffic participants. It is expected that involving drivers in cooperative maneuvers has a beneficial effect on traffic performance, which microscopic traffic flow modeling should validate next. Gamified interaction and interface elements involve drivers of automated vehicles into strategic decisions and could help to mitigate automation effects. Since they don't “drive” any more, cooperative interaction concepts now make them “play driving” and formulate pleasing strategies.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)159-175
JournalTransportation Research Part C: Emerging Technologies
Publication statusPublished - 2018

Bibliographical note

Green Open Access added to TU Delft Institutional Repository ‘You share, we take care!’ – Taverne project

Otherwise as indicated in the copyright section: the publisher is the copyright holder of this work and the author uses the Dutch legislation to make this work public.


  • Connected vehicles
  • Cooperative driving
  • Game theory
  • Interaction
  • Lane changing


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