Driving Assessment 2013 – Day 5

Alternative Title: The 36 Hour Day

On my fifth morning in Bolton Landing, USA, the weather made it difficult to go inside for the final two sessions of the conference!

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We started with the “Hybrids Session”. This is another poster session, but with the added twist of authors having 99 seconds to introduce their poster to the audience. The brief in this case is to be eye-catching or humorous, and so ensure as many visitors to your poster as possible. Two that stood out were Natasha addressing the audience in Farsi – so that people would need to visit her poster to understand what it was about! – and the use of the Flash Gordon theme music to advertise a poster on behaviour at intersections with a flashing yellow arrow. (I guess you had to be there……..).

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The final session on Driver Distraction followed, before farewells and a final grab of conference freebies (a lunchbox and leftover conference packs).

Then the drive back to the airport and the overnight flight home. We were in the middle middle seats again, although a week of knowing this seemed to have allowed Hamish to be OK with it!

(Below: A few final photos taken on the return to the airport).

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We landed early on Friday morning in Manchester (this time with luggage!), tired but all in agreement that it was a very worthwhile trip to Driving Assessment 2013. In terms of presentations, organization, social events, networking contacts and memories to take away, it is one of the best and most productive conferences that I have been to, and also our presentation seemed to be well received.

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So that completes this series of blog posts on Driving Assessment 2013, a week in which I hope I’ve given you an insight into the life of an early-career researcher at the Institute for Transport Studies, Leeds.

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(Making use of the conference t-shirt and a sample of the gifts (to myself) that I brought back from the States!)


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Driving Assessment 2013 – Day 4

Alternative Title: Taming the Butterflies

It was a lively start to the second day of the conference, with a thought-provoking, excited, and at times controversial talk from Prof. Cliff Nass (Stanford University). He challenged the audience to think of cars not as large, potentially destructive machines, but instead as a collection of screens (e.g. windscreen, mirrors, dashboard, mobiles, navigation devices). He suggested that driver psychology should be focused on how users interact (passively) with screens (rather than actively control their safety), and he even re-dubbed the conference “Screen User Assessment 2013”.

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One comical moment involved Cliff loading a video to show how easily we all miss objects that appear in our view when we are not expecting them. The audience was busy counting passes of a basketball between people on the screen when a gorilla appeared. We were not supposed to notice this…..however, the fact that this momentary image coincided with a few seconds of “Buffering” did make the task a little easier!

Next up was the presentation from ITS, Leeds – “The design of haptic gas pedal feedback to support eco-driving”. Since we submitted the paper for the conference, we’ve completed two further studies in the ecoDriver project. As a consequence, we were still deciding on the morning of the presentation just what should be included. I think this gave me a few extra butterflies before presenting. As is usually the case, I attempted a humorous introduction, to calm my nerves. I took a photo of the audience as I stood on the podium and explained how I would take another photo at the end of the presentation, for a “Before and After Smiley Face Analysis”.

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On the whole, my talk went well, aside from my interchangeable use of the terms “gas pedal” and “accelerator pedal”, despite my mental note to adjust my phrasing to communicate to the largely American audience! Unfortunately, a slight over-run of the keynote speaker meant that questions were held until lunchtime. However, I received positive feedback on the presentation, challenging questions (Hamish fielded a couple of difficult ones as well) and an opportunity to discover more about a related project being conducted in France.

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Here are the slides from my presentation, if you’d like to see more. (I’m happy to answer any questions via email if you’d like more information…..)

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The remainder of the conference after a presentation is always more relaxing. You can enjoy the talks and posters, safe in the knowledge that your moment on the stage has passed. Day 2 finished with presentations on Fitness to Drive and Driver Performance and Simulation, and then the second poster session.

An early finish meant that we had an hour to spare before the conference dinner. To the pool………

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Wednesday finished with the conference dinner, on board a boat cruising north on Lake George:

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……with the incredible scenery of the Adirondack Mountains……..

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….and a great selections of desserts and a wonderful view at sunset……

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…..before a safe return to the hotel three hours later.

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Driving Assessment 2013 – Day 3 (Part 2)

Alternative Title: Can you hear me at the back?

Perhaps the best evidence of a full conference schedule is that I am currently writing this blog whilst sat in my office in Leeds, having returned from the USA this morning.

So, back to the first day of the Driving Assessment 2013 conference.

After dragging myself out of bed for the earliest-starting conference I have attended yet (7am breakfast for an 8am start), I was rewarded with a huge choice of food and drink (the picture doesn’t do it justice!).

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The first keynote speaker, Adrian Lund (President of the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety) talked about drivers’ use of Driver Assistance Systems (e.g. forward collision warnings, lane departure warnings, adaptive headlights).

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His position means that he has access to insurance company data on how and why people crash, and therefore an insight which researchers often do not get. The key message was that the designers of systems which are supposed to help the driver should ensure that the desired effect is achieved when they are implemented in the real-world. A detail that caught my attention was that the introduction of ‘Right Turn On Red’ as a fuel-saving measure in the USA in the 1970s, actually increased pedestrian fatalities.  

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Later talks were grouped by theme: Driver behaviour and naturalistic studies (observation of a person’s everyday driving), driver coaching and training, and the measurement of driver distraction. The driver distraction session was particularly thought-provoking for me, given that it was the central theme in my PhD thesis. The debate about what the term actually means (it is important to agree on a definition of distraction to ensure that people are studying the same thing!) formed a large part of my first thesis chapter.

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The full schedule of presentations can be seen here:

http://drivingassessment.uiowa.edu/2013/presentation-schedules

Two presentations that stood out for unconventional reasons were:

A presentation on drivers’ speeding behaviours (who speeds, when and how often) was delivered with a malfunctioning projector, such that each slide flashed up briefly and unpredictably. This actually kept the audience more alert to the content, as they had no idea how long they would be able to see it. So much so that I wondered if it was a sensible strategy for my presentation the following day!

A young masters student delivered an attention-grabbing presentation on sleep apnoea in drivers. The presentation was interesting, but also was delivered at such volume that I imagine my colleagues left behind in Leeds could provide an adequate summary of the material without needing to cross the Atlantic nor refer to this blog! A lovely chap though, I’d like to add.

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There were other interesting presentations including:

  • The apparent ineffectiveness of phone-based brain training apps that claim to improve your ability to quickly notice things around you. This was also a good example of presenting results of a study even with null or negative results.
  • The encouraging impact of a scheme using the parents of new drivers to monitor their childs’ driving performance and provide feedback.
  • A criticism of data collection methods used to record mobile phone usage in young drivers, and a suggestion that they have led inaccurate (and under-estimated) figures being reported.

The day concluded with the first of two poster sessions, a useful time for speaking one on one with colleagues, which is often not possible during a presentation.

The evening was set aside for preparing my presentation, however not without a brief trip to the grocery store (a few days in America and I forget the word ‘Supermarket’!). A couple of sights on route were:

A bear:

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 An impressive tree-man:

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 And instructions on how to cross the road:

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Then finally a stop at the Ben and Jerry’s ice cream parlour; for 15 minutes of deciding followed by 3 minutes of eating.

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I’m perhaps a little too proud that such a large volume of ice cream did not pose even the slightest of challenges.

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Did I subconsciously carve the letters ITS (Institute for Transport Studies) into my empty pot??

Fuelled by ice cream, I worked on my presentation until 1am. Unfortunately, with work still to do, a 5am start on Wednesday morning was on the cards!

Driving Assessment 2013 – Day 3

Alternative Title: Planning and Preparation Prevents Poor Performance….and Blog Posting

An interesting and motivating first day of the conference yesterday, including the keynote speaker, presentations, first poster session, and student paper award….and a staggeringly good breakfast buffet!

Last night was spent preparing my presentation for today, so I’ll be posting a combined Day 3 and 4 piece later on.

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I think I’m ready for this….

Driving Assessment 2013 – Day 2

Alternative Title: Signs, Fines, and Perfect Tipping

Today’s conference events were in the afternoon only, starting with registration and a later ‘meet and greet’. This post is written in chronological order, but the conference-related details are on the way in the second half!

To break with broadcasting tradition, here the daily forecast precedes the news. Having missed the opportunity to present you with a photo of a sunshine-bathed island yesterday, the same is true today. While there were moments of lovely weather….for the majority of the day we were treated to thunderstorms.

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However, after a morning of work, we dodged the downpours and headed south around the lake for lunch.

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In addition to monster ants….

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…..for some reason, signs and traffic signals caught my eye today. I’m about to start work on a research project investigating features of motorway signs, so perhaps this explains the focus of my highlights reel for the day:

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A curfew sign in the local town….I wonder how this would be received in Leeds?

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A quirky take on the ‘No Smoking’ sign

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A pedestrian crossing countdown timer – in contrast to those I’ve seen recently in the Netherlands which countdown to ‘green for pedestrians’, these countdown to ‘green for vehicles/red for pedestrians’.

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My picture of a sign-post for Slingshot Road was not readable, however, it deserves a mention!

On returning to the car after lunch, we had not kept track of time, and this was the result for our unfortunate friends who have kindly been in charge of the driving!

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Even more concerning was the presence of two police cars nearby.

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Alas, they were not here to rid me of my room-mate for the trip and so I’m still on the pull-out sofa bed. Shame.

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This evening was the first official conference event, and really enjoyable. After a mid-afternoon registration and an apparent competition in ‘Who has the worst jetlag?’ – the Australians won comfortably – the welcome event took place.

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An excellent conference pack, including proceedings, various stationary, mints(!) and a T-shirt.

Now, I’m lucky to be here with Hamish and Natasha – six time attendees at this conference – who are familiar with almost everyone. However, as an early career researcher, it is also good to leave the security of those you know, and make a few introductions. This led to a recommendation of where to send the next paper I have prepared from my PhD thesis, numerous discussions about both my PhD findings and the eco-driving work that is now my main focus, and the discovery that my first journal article has recently been cited (I’m still at the stage where I count each citation, so that is always encouraging). I forgot my business cards, but there is plenty of time to hand those out yet!

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And finally, a lesson in tipping from our meal last night. This could fill on entire post on its own, however, I will keep it brief. Tipping etiquette in the UK and USA service industries are very different. However, after a dinner for a large group and some smartphone calculations, a $620 bill resulted in a $120 tip…near enough 20%. Simple, yes? Not quite…. The mistake of handing over the money and not separating the cost of the food from the gratuity almost led to an evening of dish-washing! A chat with the manager spared the group.

And the second ‘And finally’, I’ve been told that it is unacceptable not to appear in your own blog post (Thank you Natasha!). So, welcome to Driving Assessment 2013!

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Three days of talks, posters and discussion to follow….so more updates to come!

Driving Assessment 2013 – Day 1

Alternative Title: Planes, no trains and automobiles…..and the 2am suitcase delivery.

Technically this is our second day here, but yesterday was mostly a travel day. ‘Highlights’ included:

  • A very thorough summary from Hamish on the pros and cons of having the ‘middle middle’ seats on a transatlantic flight (Seats 4 and 5 in the following arrangement: Window 1 2 Aisle 3 4 5 6 Aisle 7 8 Window). He didn’t find any pros!
  • A run across Philadelphia airport to catch a connection, whilst our names were called over the speakers with quite unique pronunciation (Hee-berd (Hibberd), Jame-es-son (Jamson), Mee-rat (Merat)).
  •  Our baggage not making it on to the plane from Philadelphia to Albany, NY with us. (It eventually followed us on the drive north in the early hours of this morning).

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The hotel location is very picturesque. The weather is not quite as good as that in the photo from my trail post, but pleasant all the same.

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I’m looking forward to presenting the results from the ecoDriver project to a new audience – my first conference presentation on a topic different to my PhD work. Tomorrow I will be preparing my last few slides for Wednesday afternoon and then perhaps exploring the island! After having the opening presentation slot at the previous conference that I attended in the USA (Automotive UI 2010 in Pittsburgh), it is reassuring to know that this time I’m safely in the middle on Wednesday (perhaps even the ‘middle middle’ Hamish?); not kicking off the entire event, but also avoiding the last day slots that people seem to like less.

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I’ve bumped into a few familiar faces from previous conferences this evening and also put some faces with names from papers that I have read. (That usually conjures a feeling similar to when you see a radio presenter for the first time in the flesh!). The atmosphere is very friendly, and I’ve been told by regular attendees that the conference as a whole is relaxed and informal, so don’t be afraid to network! So I’ve brought 200 business cards with me…..!

Driving Assessment 2013, New York – Dr. Daryl Hibberd trip

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Next week, Daryl Hibberd will be blogging during his visit to the 7th International Driving Symposium on Human Factors in Driver Assessment, Training and Vehicle Design in Bolton Landing, New York (http://drivingassessment.uiowa.edu/).

Daryl will be presenting a paper on Wed 19th June – along with Dr. Hamish Jamson and Dr. Natasha Merat – based on work from the ecoDriver project (http://www.ecodriver-project.eu/). If the photo of the conference venue (above) is anything to go by, it should be a good trip!