Increasingly Complex Infotainment Systems Place Heavy Demands on Drivers and Driver Safety

Written by | Technology

Serious Risk to Drivers

According to new research from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, new vehicle infotainment systems pose a serious risk to drivers. One in three U.S. adults use infotainment systems while driving. Improperly designed in-vehicle displays require more effort from drivers to see and comprehend. The traffic safety study examined both visual and cognitive demands using the infotainment systems in 30 new 2017 vehicles. Study participants were asked to use touch-screen and other interactive technologies while driving.

Drivers who used touch-screen infotainment systems took their hands, eyes, and mind off the road for more than 24 seconds. Programming navigation systems took an average of 40 seconds for drivers to complete, calling for drivers to take their eyes completely off the road. As many as 23 systems called for high or very high levels of demand on drivers. None called for low levels of demand for the driver’s attention. At just 25 mph, a driver can travel four football fields in the time it takes to enter a destination in navigation.

Research from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration found that taking your eyes off the road for just two seconds doubles the risk of a crash. The infotainment features in most 2017 vehicles are so distracting they should not be used while driving. Current infotainment technologies simply don’t mix well with the demands of safe driving. Researchers hope that these and similar studies will help automakers and system designers improve the functionality of new infotainment systems making it faster to interpret content and reducing the distraction demands placed on drivers.

Reducing “Dwell’ Time

One way to reduce the distraction level of infotainment system displays is to give them the built-in flexibility to reduce dwell time (time to interpret content on the display) during sudden changes in ambient light. Vehicle infotainment and instrumentation cluster display systems are viewed under rapidly varying lighting conditions. Drivers strain to see and rapidly interpret the content in these changing ambient driving conditions because our eyes see color and contrast differently depending on ambient light, age and other factors. For instance, very bright sun shining on a display can make it also impossible for a driver or passenger to make out the content. What’s needed is a technology that addresses how drivers perceive the content on the displays. Improved readability in bright light driving conditions can reduce driver display dwell time and increase driver and passenger safety. Conversely, improved readability in dark driving conditions can reduce the cabin brightness, thereby reducing the impact on a driver’s night vision to increase safety.

Improving Readability in Bright and Dark Driving Conditions

What’s needed, some say, is a display technology that can improve readability in different ambient driving conditions and ideally can also adjust to match the age of the viewers eyes. Straining to read display screens takes a driver’s eyes off the road that much longer. New category of display technology called “perceptual processing” has recently become available that will improve the readability of automotive displays in bright and dark driving conditions, which limit the length of time a driver’s gaze is fixed on the display. This perceptual processing technology can reduce dwell time significantly. If the perceptual technology can also be implemented in software, then this can also enable rapid low-cost integration of this new display improvement technology as it can be OS and GPU agnostic. Automotive display systems that adapt this new form of perceptual display processing technology can also apply the technology to reduce display brightness by 50% or more, which offers the added benefits of reducing power and heat, prolonging the life of display panels, reducing heat dissipation costs and reducing battery drain for electric vehicles.

Last modified: February 8, 2019