No SDES-2017-16
Title Being Watched over by a Conversation Robot Enhances Safety in Simulated Driving
Author Yoshinori Nakagawa, Kaechang Park, Hirotada Ueda and Hiroshi Ono
Abstract In the aging information society, replacing human passengers' protective effects on vehicle drivers with those of social robots is essential. However, effects of social robots' presence on drivers have not yet been fully explored. Thus, using a driving simulator and a conversation robot, this experimental study aimed to answer two research questions: (i) whether social robots' anthropomorphic qualities per se—not practical information the robot provides drivers—have protective effects by promoting cautious driving and alleviating crash risks and (ii) in what psychological processes such effects emerge. Participants were collected from young, middle-aged, and elderly cohorts (n = 37, 36, and 36, respectively). They were allocated to either the treatment group (simulated driving in a conversation robot's presence) or the control group (simulated driving alone), and their driving performance was measured. Emotions (peace of mind, loneliness, and concentration) were also measured in a post-driving questionnaire survey using our original, psychometrically sound scales. Although the older cohort did not demonstrate protective effects, perhaps due to motion sickness, young and middle cohorts drove cautiously, with the robot enhancing either peace of mind or concentration. Protective effects were partly ascribed to the robot's role of expressing sympathy, especially when drivers encountered not-their-fault minor incidents and became stressed. This finding suggests a new driving-safety approach, in which the central point is passengers receiving drivers’ emotions, rather than giving them information or warnings, regardless of whether passengers are humans or social robots.
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