Distraction Effects Created by new In-Vehicle Systems

New in-vehicle systems are designed to assist the driver in accomplishing his driving tasks and therefore claim to lower driver workload. The technical outlines of these systems unfortunately do not always reflect the information requirements and the processing capacity of the driver. The simple strategy of providing the driver with additional information cannot be satisfying, because this may lead to distraction or overload, and even in conventional cars there is not always a clearcut relation between displays or controls and the driving task. Usually drivers are able to select relevant information from the road environment and to transfer it to reliable decisions and actions. Could this balance between the situational demands of the driving task and the performance resources of the driver be disturbed by additional tasks creating an extra stress? What happens if different sources of information compete for the driver’s attention or if there is more information available than the driver can cope with in a given situational time interval? Various empirical studies indeed indicate evidence of distraction effects – caused by in-vehicle systems – in such complex situations.

This contribution concentrates on the impacts of new devices on the attention ressources of perception, central and motoric processes and consequently tries to systemise possible distraction effects. Then the focus is on the description of how drivers are coping with additional informational demands. Fundamentally two strategies are at the driver’s disposal: either he can use compensatory strategies (e.g. make the driving task easier by slowing down) or he can accept the additonal stimulation and increase his mental effort, reaching an higher activation niveau. For this purpose empirical studies about impacts of new in-vehicle systems on driver behaviour are reviewed and related to strategies of accomplishing the new stressors, in order to answer the questions as follow:
1. What kind of strategy a driver will choose within the context of the given traffic situation?
2. What are the implications on safety and reliability of the driver-vehicle-system?

Aus: W. Fastenmeier & H. Gstalter (2000). Vortrag auf der ICTTP2000, 4.-7.9.00 in Bern.

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