Effects of mental demands on situation awareness during platooning: A driving simulator study

Daniël D. Heikoop*, Joost C.F. de Winter, Bart van Arem, Neville A. Stanton

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

28 Citations (Scopus)
45 Downloads (Pure)


Previous research shows that drivers of automated vehicles are likely to engage in visually demanding tasks, causing impaired situation awareness. How mental task demands affect situation awareness is less clear. In a driving simulator experiment, 33 participants completed three 40-min runs in an automated platoon, each run with a different level of mental task demands. Results showed that high task demands (i.e., performing a 2-back task, a working memory task in which participants had to recall a letter, presented two letters ago) induced high self-reported mental demands (71% on the NASA Task Load Index), while participants reported low levels of self-reported task engagement (measured with the Dundee Stress State Questionnaire) in all three task conditions in comparison to the pre-task measurement. Participants’ situation awareness, as measured using a think-out-loud protocol, was affected by mental task demands, with participants being more involved with the mental task itself (i.e., to remember letters) and less likely to comment on situational features (e.g., car, looking, overtaking) when task demands increased. Furthermore, our results shed light on temporal effects, with heart rate decreasing and self-constructed mental models of automation growing in complexity, with run number. It is concluded that mental task demands reduce situation awareness, and that not only type-of-task, but also time-on-task, should be considered in Human Factors research of automated driving.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)193-209
JournalTransportation Research Part F: Traffic Psychology and Behaviour
Publication statusPublished - 2018

Bibliographical note

Green Open Access added to TU Delft Institutional Repository ‘You share, we take care!’ – Taverne project https://www.openaccess.nl/en/you-share-we-take-care 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.


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