Conference Proceeding

How Demanding is "Just Driving?" A Cognitive Workload - Psychophysiological Reference Evaluation

  • Bruce Mehler (MIT AgeLab & N.E. University Transportation Center)
  • Bryan Reimer (MIT AgeLab & N.E. University Transportation Center)


Physiological arousal, measured as heart rate and skin conductance level, was recording during single-task highway driving (just driving), while driving and interacting with several voice-based and visual-manual infotainment user interfaces, while driving and engaging in multiple levels of a cognitive workload reference task (n-back), and while engaging in the same cognitive workload reference task under single-task (non-driving) conditions. Single-task highway driving was found to produce a level of physiological arousal in the same range as that of the relatively highly demanding 2-back task under non-driving conditions. While continuing innovations such as automatic transmission, power steering, as well as climate control, sound proofing and other comfort features, have reduced the overt demands of driving, these findings suggest that the remaining demand on resources during what has been thought of as “just driving” may be higher than many realize. The extent to which various implementations of longitudinal and lateral control driver assistance features being introduced change this dynamic is largely an open question.

How to Cite:

Mehler, B. & Reimer, B., (2019) “How Demanding is "Just Driving?" A Cognitive Workload - Psychophysiological Reference Evaluation”, Driving Assessment Conference 10(2019), 363-369. doi:

Rights: Copyright © 2019 the author(s)

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Published on
27 Jun 2019
Peer Reviewed