Modern computerized vehicles offer the possibility of changing vehicle parameters with the aim of creating a novel driving experience, such as an increased feeling of sportiness. For example, electric vehicles can be designed to provide an artificial sound, and the throttle mapping can be adjusted to give drivers the illusion that they are driving a sports vehicle (i.e., without altering the vehicle’s performance envelope). However, a fundamental safety-related question is how drivers perceive and respond to vehicle parameter adjustments. As of today, human-subject research on throttle mapping is unavailable, whereas research on sound enhancement is mostly conducted in listening rooms, which provides no insight into how drivers respond to the auditory cues. This study investigated how perceived sportiness and driving behavior are affected by adjustments in vehicle sound and throttle mapping. Through a within-subject simulator-based experiment, we investigated (1) Modified Throttle Mapping (MTM), (2) Artificial Engine Sound (AES) via a virtually elevated rpm, and (3) MTM and AES combined, relative to (4) a Baseline condition and (5) a Sports car that offered increased engine power. Results showed that, compared to Baseline, AES and MTM-AES increased perceived sportiness and yielded a lower speed variability in curves. Furthermore, MTM and MTM-AES caused higher vehicle acceleration than Baseline during the first second of driving away from a standstill. Mean speed and comfort ratings were unaffected by MTM and AES. The highest sportiness ratings and fastest driving speeds were obtained for the Sports car. In conclusion, the sound enhancement not only increased the perception of sportiness but also improved drivers’ speed control performance, suggesting that sound is used by drivers as functional feedback. The fact that MTM did not affect the mean driving speed indicates that drivers adapted their “gain” to the new throttle mapping and were not susceptible to risk compensation.
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Supplementary material for the paper: Creating the illusion of sportiness: Evaluating modified throttle mapping and artificial engine sound for electric vehicles