‘Modern car interior is distracting’ – Aftersales Magazine

Driver distraction and inattention play a role in nearly half of all fatal and serious injuries, according to research. With cars overloaded with more technology than ever before, connectivity expert VNC Automotive thinks it’s time to recognize that the modern car interior is in danger of becoming almost as distracting as what’s happening outside.

“The competition for driver attention has never been greater,” said Tom Blackie, CEO of VNC Automotive. “The roads are busier than ever, touchscreens dominate the car interior, and we live increasingly connected lives. That means there are now many more opportunities to focus a driver’s attention elsewhere.”

Not only that, but modern cars are also overloaded with systems that deliver a cacophony of warnings and alarms, punish us if we drive over a white line without a sign, or demand that we take a break if we’re miles from the nearest parking spot. to be. “They have become the ultimate backseat driver,” says Blackie. “They interrupt the driving task to criticize, but with too little context to be useful.”

Visible design

Purely passive safety measures such as airbags and crumple zones have now reached the limit of their capabilities and no further major developments are expected. In addition, visibility has been pushed to the background in favor of occupant protection and aesthetic considerations, resulting in high shoulder lines, thick stiles and smaller window openings resulting in narrower fields of vision for the driver.

To compensate for this, the industry has been introducing active technologies that use exterior-mounted cameras, radar and other sensors, and with each new generation of vehicles it seems that more of the responsibilities of driving are being delegated to them. Testing bodies such as Euro NCAP require them to be installed before awarding the full star rating. If not, they deduct points if a required feature is not fitted as standard.

However, there is some evidence that newer cars are now more likely to be involved in accidents at intersections or when merging into traffic, scenarios where distraction can be particularly dangerous. And although the risks of long glances away from the road – such as when operating a mobile phone – are well known, more research is needed into the consequences of multiple short glances, which are typical for the operation of, for example, a touchscreen.

“Our experience with technology installed in 35 million vehicles worldwide has taught us that there is a subtle but significant difference between an interface that provides a slick window onto a digital world and an interface that buries basic functionality in the middle of a maze. Perhaps the time has come to recognize the gravity of this challenge and ask our safety organizations to develop formal assessments for in-vehicle distraction,” said Blackie.

Warning system

Euro NCAP may already be working on it. From 2023, vehicles must be equipped with a direct driver control system to stand a chance of a full score in the Occupant Status Monitoring (OSM) category, with the system providing warnings if the driver’s attention wanders too much of the driving task. For example, a driver may receive a warning because, for example, he has opened the menu on the touchscreen to adjust the temperature, an unappealing situation that any car manufacturer will no doubt be happy to tackle.

It also provides the ability to adapt a car’s systems to the driver’s current level of attention. ADAS features, such as Forward Collision Alerts, could adjust their sensitivity to warn more quickly if the driver’s attention is elsewhere, while the reverse could also be true: giving less intrusive feedback when the driver is much more alert is. It could even be possible to adapt the layout of the screens in the vehicle to the situation, for example by simplifying the display on a busy highway.

Meanwhile, the industry continues to look to a future where increasing vehicle autonomy is used to legitimize drivers to take their eyes off the road. “If we want drivers to regain control when an assistive function is not working as expected, it will only become more important to understand both physical and cognitive distractions,” concludes Blackie.

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