The growth in information and communication technologies (ICT) has led to an information overload which significantly increases driver distraction. Automotive original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) are under pressure to implement the latest technologies to maintain their brand value; however, they also have to keep the process of human interaction with the car simple, to reduce driver distraction.
Research by The U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has shown that 17 per cent (an estimated 899,000) of all police-reported accidents in 2010 reportedly involved some type of driver distraction. Of those 899,000 crashes, distraction by a device/control integral in the vehicle was reported in 26,000 cases (3 per cent of the distraction-related police-reported accidents). Reacting on these results, the NHTSA has formulated voluntary guidelines for driver distraction, which will be rolled out in three phases based on device origin and interaction type.
"NHTSA's sincere approach toward driver distraction will help OEMs lay a blueprint for their next-gen information systems," comments Frost & Sullivan Research Analyst, Krishna Jayaraman (automotive.frost.com). “NHTSA plans to implement the feedback from the public and hold public hearings before finalising the first phase of recommendations. This will open up opportunities for OEMs and suppliers to convey their message and help set guidelines that will benefit them as well as the consumers."
As smartphones are one of the major sources of driver distraction, the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) in December 2011 proposed a nation-wide ban on the use of personal electronics devices while driving, as the risk of an accident is four times higher when using a phone while driving a car, various studies, revealed.
"The regulation applicable in 50 states and banning the use of hands-free systems, including wireless headsets, could act against those OEMs offering phone integration and hands-free systems as a part of their product portfolio,” fears Jayaraman. "However, with pressure from the automotive and the smartphone industries, it is left to be seen how this regulation will be implemented. This will be a testing phase though for all smartphone interfacing solutions available in the market, where judgment will be made on how intelligently a phone is handled with the in-vehicle HMI."
All advancements to reduce driver distraction point toward the development of and the need for natural voice control interfaces. Before the goal of achieving a voice-controlled environment is realised however, a number of demands have to be met, particularly regarding the migration from command-based to natural speech systems. For systems such as Ford Sync, Kia UVO, and Toyota Entune, this becomes a win-win situation as they are already offering voice environments in their cars. On the other hand, this might be a potential threat to touch screen systems, wherein user attention is required for a longer time.
"The categorisation of driving-related critical and non-critical functions will be pivotal when designing a safe and simple HMI solution,” Jayaraman continues. “The key focus will be to achieve a proper balance when splitting critical functions among the different interfaces available. A major part of this process will be based on the aforementioned guidelines for reducing driver distraction and keeping in mind consumer preference for different controls."
A perfect balance between the implementation of new technologies and the reduction of driver distraction needs to be achieved. This revokes the need for a multi-modal HMI solution wherein all the control interfaces will play a major role. Combining Driver assistance systems (DAS) and information systems will be the modular approach to ensure driver safety. "NHTSA can work with automotive OEMs to minimise driver distraction similar to GENIVI, which aims to standardise the infotainment platform," concludes Jayaraman.
If you are interested in more information on Frost & Sullivan’s research on the Automotive Human Machine Interface, please send an email with your contact details to Katja Feick, Corporate Communications, at katja.feick[.]frost.com.
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