Looming auditory collision warnings for driving

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

64 Scopus citations


Objective: A driving simulator was used to compare the effectiveness of increasing intensity (looming) auditory warning signals with other types of auditory warnings. Background: Auditory warnings have been shown to speed driver reaction time in rear-end collision situations; however, it is not clear which type of signal is the most effective. Although verbal and symbolic (e.g., a car horn) warnings have faster response times than abstract warnings, they often lead to more response errors. Method: Participants (N = 20) experienced four nonlooming auditory warnings (constant intensity, pulsed, ramped, and car horn), three looming auditory warnings ("veridical," "early," and "late"), and a no-warning condition. In 80% of the trials, warnings were activated when a critical response was required, and in 20% of the trials, the warnings were false alarms. For the early (late) looming warnings, the rate of change of intensity signaled a time to collision (TTC) that was shorter (longer) than the actual TTC. Results: Veridical looming and car horn warnings had significantly faster brake reaction times (BRT) compared with the other nonlooming warnings (by 80 to 160 ms). However, the number of braking responses in false alarm conditions was significantly greater for the car horn. BRT increased significantly and systematically as the TTC signaled by the looming warning was changed from early to veridical to late. Conclusion: Looming auditory warnings produce the best combination of response speed and accuracy. Application: The results indicate that looming auditory warnings can be used to effectively warn a driver about an impending collision.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)63-74
Number of pages12
JournalHuman Factors
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 2011
Externally publishedYes


  • audition
  • auditory displays
  • detection
  • driver behavior
  • highway and vehicle design
  • reaction time

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Human Factors and Ergonomics
  • Applied Psychology
  • Behavioral Neuroscience


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