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Evidence from London taxi drivers of hierarchical route planning in a real-world environment

Griesbauer, Eva-Maria; (2021) Evidence from London taxi drivers of hierarchical route planning in a real-world environment. Doctoral thesis (Ph.D), UCL (University College London). Green open access

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Abstract

The ability to navigate a spatial environment strongly depends on how well individuals learn, represent and make use of their knowledge about the environment. In the past, research investigated these aspects separately and often in a virtual environment. The current work studied these three aspects of navigation in a real-real world setting to understand how humans navigate naturally in a complex, urban environment like London, UK. Of particular interest was to determine if there was evidence of hierarchical representations during route planning as found in previous behavioural, neuroscientific or computational studies. Most past studies have explored knowledge for simplistic environments or fragmented knowledge of real-world environments. By contrast, licensed London taxi drivers acquire a unique, almost perfect mental representation of the street network, the location of places and the traffic rules that apply to it. Here, the rare knowledge of these navigation experts was explored in three studies with novel approaches. First, to gain an understanding of the training process of unqualified taxi drivers, information from an interview with a teacher, training lessons and study material was collected, summarised and reported. A range of learning strategies was identified that was linked to theoretical, map-based learning and practical, in-situ experiences of London and pointed towards a segmented planning of routes through subgoal selection. Second, a potential mental segregation of London was studied with qualified taxi drivers through boundary drawings of specific London districts with a paper map to understand a potential hierarchical representation. Higher agreement was found for geographical structures and topically distinct districts surrounded by a linear, almost rectangular street network, whereas agreement was lowest for irregularly shaped districts with similarities to neighbouring areas. Finally, taxi drivers were asked to plan and then verbally recall each street they would take along routes between selected origin destination pairs. Audio recordings of these routes made it possible to relate the response times between individual streets to specific street network properties. The analysis using a linear mixed model indicated slower responses at upcoming turns and entering main roads, whereas boundary streets were recalled faster, as were finial streets when compared to initial street. No effects of Euclidean distance or detours were found. Observations from the training process indicate that a potential segregation of the environment, which might impact on later route planning, might be formed already through specific learning strategies. Faster response times for boundary streets support models in which planning is hierarchical. These findings extend past work on route planning in lab-based networks to real-world city street networks and highlight avenues for future research to explore and make use of real-world data.

Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Qualification: Ph.D
Title: Evidence from London taxi drivers of hierarchical route planning in a real-world environment
Event: UCL (University College London)
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
Language: English
Additional information: Copyright © The Author 2021. Original content in this thesis is licensed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0) Licence (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/). Any third-party copyright material present remains the property of its respective owner(s) and is licensed under its existing terms. Access may initially be restricted at the author’s request.
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences > Div of Psychology and Lang Sciences
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10118776
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