Improving Drivers’ Hazard Perception and Performance Using a Less Visually-Demanding Interface

In-vehicle devices and infotainment systems occasionally lead to driver distraction, and as a result, increase the risk of missing on-road information. In the current study, a novel multi-touch interface for an in-vehicle infotainment system was evaluated, which potentially requires less visual attention and thus may reduce distraction and increase safety. The interface was compared with a functionally similar control interface in terms of hazard perception metrics and mental workload. Twenty-two participants drove a simulated route once with each system. During each drive, which included eight potentially-hazardous scenarios, participants were instructed to interact with one of the in-vehicle interfaces to perform phone calls or to navigate to specified destinations. Eye-gaze data were collected throughout the drive to evaluate whether participants detected the hazards while interacting with the in-vehicle interface, how much time they needed to identify them, and for how long they engaged with the secondary task. Additionally, after each drive, participants completed a NASA R-TLX questionnaire to evaluate their subjective workload during their engagement with the secondary tasks. Participants using the multi-touch interface needed less time to complete each secondary task and were quicker at identifying potential hazards around them. However, the probability of detecting hazards was similar for both interfaces. Finally, when using the multi-touch interface, participants reported lower subjective workload. The use of a multi-touch interface was found to improve drivers’ performance in terms of identifying hazards quicker than the control condition. The road safety and driver distraction implications of this novel interface are discussed.

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