Abstract

Semi-autonomous vehicles occasionally require control to be handed over to the driver in situations where the vehicle is unable to operate safely. Currently, such handover requests require the driver to take control almost instantaneously. We investigate how auditory pre-alerts that occur well before the handover request impact the success of the handover in a dual task scenario. In a study with a driving simulator, drivers perform tasks on their phone while the car is in an autonomous mode. They receive a repeated burst audio prealert or an increasing pulse audio pre-alert preceding the standard warning for immediate handover. Results show that pre-alerts caused people to look more at the road before the handover occurred, and to disengage from the secondary task earlier, compared to when there was no pre-alert. This resulted in safer handover situations. Increasing pulse prealerts show particular promise due to their communication of urgency. Our detailed analysis informs the design and evaluation of alerts in safety-critical systems with automation.