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Laboratory-based studies of perceived speed show that, under most circumstances, perceived speed is reduced as a function of contrast. However, a recent investigation of perceived vehicular speed while driving around a closed road circuit showed no such effect (Owens, Wood, & Carberry, 2010, Perception, 39, 1199-1215). We sought to probe the source of this discrepancy, asking whether the presence or absence of stereoscopic motion information might account for the difference in results. In a two-alternative forced-choice psychophysical speed-discrimination task, observers compared the speed of high-and low-contrast driving clips filmed with a 3‑D camera and presented either stereoscopically (3‑D) or monoscopically (2‑D). Although perceived speed was reduced at low contrast, the size of this misperception was equivalent for 2‑D and 3‑D presentations. However, the inclusion of stereoscopic cues to vehicular speed caused significant improvements in the precision of speed judgments. It is concluded that although stereopsis can provide access to valuable information on perceived speed, contrast-independent speed estimation as demonstrated by Owens et al. (2010) is more likely to reflect the use of the full visual field in a real driving situation (compared with limited field of view simulations), or the additional contributions of nonvisual cues rather than stereopsis.
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