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Human factors affecting the control and perception of motor vehicle dynamics

Vehicle Dynamics Engineers (VDEs) responsible for developing passenger vehicles and Elite Race Drivers were analysed over a 5 year period using telemetry data. Investigations were undertaken in an attempt to identify the most important rate limiting factors for each profession and to develop effective training methods for them. In a preliminary investigation it was found that the VDEs were unable to reliably detect certain changes to a vehicle’s dynamic behaviour despite their high confidence that they were doing so. This result led to the main VDE study where the VDEs were assessed using a Rotary vestibular platform, the RAF Basic Attributes tests and telemetry analysis of their performance while they evaluated changes to a vehicle’s dynamic behaviour. It was found that there was no significant relation between either the Attributes scores or vestibular performance and the VDEs’ ability to discriminate changes to the dynamic behaviour of a vehicle, termed their Evaluation performance. After the VDE’s baseline Evaluation performance was established, they received individual training to improve both their performance at sensing dynamic motion (Perceptual performance) and their consistency and accuracy of controlling vehicle motion (Control performance). The VDEs were then retested to determine the effect of this training on their Evaluation performance. Whereas before training most VDEs scored in the worst Evaluation performance category, after training most scored in the highest Evaluation performance category. A new mathematical technique for analysing telemetry data was developed which allowed us to separately determine the effects of Perceptual performance and Control performance on Evaluation performance. It was found that improving the VDE’s Perceptual performance accounted for all improvements in their Evaluation performance whereas Control performance was unrelated to their Evaluation performance. This finding led to the development of a new Human Factors training program which will be instituted for all Ford’s professional VDEs from 1996 onward. In the Elite race driver study, a mathematical model was developed which allowed us to simulate the effect of altering a driver’s curvature control strategy, which is a key component of a driver’s style, on lap times. It was found that all drivers tested, with the notable exception of 3 times World Formula 1 Champion Jackie Stewart, had inadequate and / or faulty cognitive models for optimising curvature control when compared to our computer simulations. Training the subjects to improve their curvature control model produced substantial objective improvements in performance whereas additional unaided practice produced no improvement. For example a 19 year old N.Z. race driver was trained in one afternoon to lap faster than the current World Touring Car champion using the same vehicle.
Type of thesis
The University of Waikato
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