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Elevated indoor levels of CO2 and the presence of body odor have been shown to have adverse effects on the cognitive function of building occupants. These factors may also contribute to impaired in-car driving performance, potentially posing a threat to transportation and public safety. To investigate the effects of CO2 and body odor on driving performance, we enrolled 25 participants in highway driving tasks under three indoor CO2 levels (800, 1800, and 3500 ppm) and two body odor conditions (presence and absence). CO2 was injected in the cabin to increase CO2 levels. In addition, we assessed working memory and reaction time using N-back tasks during driving. We found that driving speed, acceleration, and lateral control were not significantly affected by either CO2 or body odor. We observed no significant differences in sleepiness or emotion under varying CO2 or body odor conditions, except for a lower level of emotion valence with exposure to body odor. Task load was also not significantly impacted by CO2 or body odor levels, except for a higher reported effort at 1800 ppm compared to 800 ppm CO2. However, participants did demonstrate significantly higher accuracy with increased body odor exposure, suggesting a complex effect of volatile organic compounds on driver cognition. Our findings also revealed moderating effects of task difficulty of N-back tests and exposure duration on cognition and driving performance. This is one of the first few in-depth studies regarding environmental factors and their effect on drivers' cognition and driving performance, and these results provide valuable insights for car-cabin environmental design for air quality and driving safety. Copyright © 2023. Published by Elsevier B.V.


Chao Wang, Yingzi Lin, Yevgeniy Ptukhin, Shichao Liu. Air quality in the car: How CO2 and body odor affect drivers' cognition and driving performance? The Science of the total environment. 2024 Feb 10;911:168785

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PMID: 37996033

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