Intersection crossing considered as intercepting a moving traffic gap: effects of task and environmental constraints

  • Louveton Nicolas
  • Bootsma Reinoud J.
  • Guerin Perrine
  • Berthelon Catherine
  • Montagne Gilles


    Safely crossing an intersection requires that drivers actively control their approach to the intersection with respect to characteristics of the flow of incoming traffic. To further our understanding of the perceptualmotor processes involved in this demanding manoeuvre, we designed a driving simulator experiment in which 13 participants actively negotiated intersections by passing through a gap in the train of incoming traffic. Task constraints were manipulated by varying the size of the traffic gap and the initial conditions with respect to the time of arrival of the traffic gap at the intersection. Environment constraints were manipulated by varying the intersection geometry through changes in the angle formed by the crossroads. The results revealed that the task constraints systematically gave rise to continuous and gradual adjustments in approach velocity, initiated well before arriving at the intersection. These functionally appropriate adjustments allowed the drivers to safely cross the intersection, generally just slightly ahead of the center of the traffic gap. Notwithstanding the fact that the geometry of the intersection did not affect the spatiotemporal constraints of the crossing task, approach behavior varied systematically over geometries, suggesting that drivers rely on the traffic gap's bearing angle. Overall, the pattern of results is indicative of a continuous coupling between perception and action, analogous to that observed in locomotor interception tasks.