What is Naturalistic Driving

Naturalistic driving, also known as naturalistic observations, is a new approach among already applied traffic research methods. It can be defined as “A study undertaken to provide insight into driver behaviour during every day trips by recording details of the driver, the vehicle and the surroundings through unobtrusive data gathering equipment and without experimental control”.

Under this naturalistic observation approach, the behaviour of road users is observed unobtrusively in a natural setting for a long period of time. In previous studies both in Europe (PROLOGUE) and in the United States, the approach has proven its potential to contribute substantially to the understanding of the processes resulting in crashes and near misses.

How does it work?

Typically, in a naturalistic observation study passenger cars, generally the subjects' own cars, are equipped with devices that continuously monitor various aspects of driving behaviour, including information about vehicle movements - e.g. acceleration, deceleration, position on the road, driving speed -, about the driver - e.g. eye, head and hand movements -, and about the direct environment - e.g. traffic densities, time headway, road and weather conditions. Similar to passenger cars, also trucks and motorcycles can be equipped. This technique makes it possible to observe and analyse the interrelationship between driver/rider, vehicle, road and other traffic in normal situations, in conflict situations and in actual collisions.

Naturalistic Driving Video

Follow a day in the life of Michael, a fictive character who takes part in an ND project: this 8-minute video shows what Naturalistic Driving is all about and how it will add to current road traffic research. Video: courtesy of the PROLOGUE project.

Naturalistic Driving Video (Deutsch) - Naturalistic Driving Video (Español)

More information

More information and several references to relevant publications can be found in the SWOV fact sheet Naturalistic Driving: observing everyday driving behaviour.