Visual and Cognitive Demands of Using In-Vehicle Information Systems

The features of vehicle-based infotainment technology have greatly expanded in recent years, opening up a new array of tasks accessible to motorists while driving. Many of these new functions are unrelated to driving. Examples include voice commands to send a text message, check social media or surf the web. Furthermore, many tasks distract motorists from driving by diverting their eyes and attention from the road and hands from the steering wheel. Yet, surprisingly, little is known about how these interactions may affect a driver’s performance when the demands are high.

Given the potential safety concerns, as part of its Center for Driving Safety and Technology, the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety commissioned the University of Utah to carry out research to address three important questions:

1. Which task is the most demanding to complete while driving: calling/dialing, sending a text message, tuning the radio or programming navigation?

2. What level of demand is associated with completing these tasks using voice commands, touchscreens or other interactive technologies (e.g., buttons, rotary dial, writing pad)?

3. How does demand from these interactions vary across the infotainment systems found in different vehicle makes and models?