Sep 12

Early Results from an Online Questionnaire Exploring Future Interfaces Design to Support Fuel-Efficient Driving

Eco-driving is a driving style that seeks to reduce overall fuel use and, as a consequence, subsequent greenhouse gas emissions (Barkenbus, 2010). Eco-driving has both a financial benefit to the driver, who has lower fuel expenditure and a positive environmental impact due to the reduced pollutants. Without feedback regarding eco-driving behaviours however, individuals quickly return to their previous fuel use habitual behaviours (Lauper et al., 2015; Tulusan, et al., 2012).

The use of feedback technologies and greater use of in-vehicle interfaces is therefore central to eco-driving. To support drivers eco-driving goals, a variety of pervasive feedback devices and in car interfaces have been proposed to both to support the adoption of and aid the long term maintenance of eco-driving behaviours. Previous research has explored both theoretical user acceptance of technology (Meschtscherjakov, Wilfinger, Scherndl & Tscheligi, 2009) and the practical impact of feedback devices on fuel-efficient driving performance (McIlroy, Stanton, Godwin, & Wood, 2016). Meschtscherjakov et al. (2009) found that visual feedback in the form of an eco-speedometer was highly rated by participants, however McIlroy et al. (2016) found that visual feedback was the least effective at modifying fuel usage during simulator trials.

A key limitation of previous work exploring the acceptance of eco-driving feedback devices is a low sample of participants. To overcome this, a questionnaire was developed to explore driving behaviours, the potential, and user acceptance, of pervasive eco driving technologies. During the questionnaire, participants, all of whom were required to hold a driving licence and drive on a regular basis, were required to rank seven potential pervasive technologies designed to reduce fuel usage. The seven devices were a haptic vibration pedal, a haptic counterforce pedal, auditory advice, auditory tone an eco-speedometer, an eco-image display and an automated eco-driving system.

Although data analysis for the survey is still currently underway, there are currently over 150 respondents to the questionnaire. Early results suggest that individuals are keen for feedback technology that provides information rather than feedback that directly impacted their control of their vehicle. Participants made frequent comment regarding potential safety implications of haptic devices, suggesting that this could prevent the avoidance of potential hazards and roadway situations. Relating to the use of haptic feedback technologies, one participant commented, “Most of the systems detailed about are actively dangerous, in my opinion. If I’m not in control of the car, if there’s a push back when I need acceleration or another input when I need attention that could get someone killed. Altering the performance of the vehicle…. Jesus Christ. There are enough variables as it is.”

Of course not every participant was supportive of following eco-driving techniques in general, as one participant suggested “I want to drive how I want; Let the computers in the car sort out the boring fuel economy stuff (Which actually they do: my fuel economy has gone from 32MPG to 37+ just by changing car). I should add I don’t have carbon intensive children to rear, I commute by train/ active travel, work from home and do little millage in a year. I know about eco-driving, but its of no interest to me: I’ve done my bit, and I’m not sitting behind a truck all day to get an extra 5mpg on the motorway”.

As can be seen, the G-Active project faces great challenges in the future to develop interfaces that are well accepted, and to develop optimisation to ensure that vehicles are efficient as they can be. We are certainly embracing the challenges and look forward to further testing!