HUDs Might Make Driving More Dangerous

Common wisdom might suggest that a heads up display on your vehicle is safer than glancing down at the dash. What if common wisdom is wrong?

A study at the University of Toronto suggests just that, working from the premise that HUDs could indeed make driving more dangerous rather than less, based on the idea that dealing with the additional visual information was a challenge to our attention that increased the difficulty of driving.

To test this, participants were given a set of computer based trials where they had to report on a number of randomly arranged spots on a screen. Randomly, a secondary stimulus in the form of a square was flashed up onscreen, and respondents had to indicate if they saw it or not.

If the square was entirely absent, accuracy in counting was good, but when it was present, accuracy dropped, suggesting distraction from the core task. This only worsened if there were more spots onscreen.

The issue, according to the researchers, is that in a vehicle HUD situation, the difference between an arrow that might indicate a turning scenario and an alert that might indicate you're going to crash into a tree could be muddled or misinterpreted due to the quantity of data provided and the distraction from the core driving experience.

Digital messages on windshields make driving less safe [University Of Toronto via Slashgear]


Comments

    This strikes me as a poor test. They're testing attention with vs without additional stimulus, but in actual driving the additional stimulus (ie. the dashboard) is always there. The only difference is where that information is placed, and it's been shown in several military studies that displaying information in the standard field of vision is more beneficial than requiring the operator to look away to see it.

    Last edited 30/06/15 10:34 am

      Exactly right. This may be a good study about how distractions are distracting, but I'm not convinced it's a good analogue for driving.

      The other factor is a HUD just has to be safer than other forms of getting your information. People exist in a world of distractions, but a HUD at least keeps their eyes vaguely in front of the car.

      There is no bench mark against them looking down to a dash either. My issue is they've tested the negatives of HUD but not the negatives of the existing method of acquiring that information.

      I would suggest that the negatives of looking down to a dash would be far higher than that of HUD. In which case, it's an improvement which is a good thing.

        Yep, I'd imagine if they had to do the same tests but with the tests displayed where the existing dash cluster was, there would be a bigger change in the results.

        HUD's aren't about processing complex problems while driving, they're about minimising the distance you need to look away from the road to check your speed. As you said.

    Give me a hud where cars get locked on with targets, showing me extra data like their make, model, number plate and speed so I can send the data to the police whenever dickheads are on the road.

      Whenever I see self-righteous comments like this I know who the real dickhead on the road is. No doubt a typical Corolla driver that sits in the right lane doing 30 under, controlling everybody else's speed and think they are god's gift to safe driving.

        I do a lot of highway driving, so I lock in the cruise control at the correct speed (Not over or under) and I see people casually going 10-20 over the speed limit.

        I'm not being all a-current-affair rant with the "farkin P platers and their farkin hooning" etc, I'm just genuinely annoyed at how some people just break the road rules.

        As for the people that go under the speed limit. as long as they stick to the far left-hand lane, I couldn't give a crap.

    The issue, according to the researchers, is that in a vehicle HUD situation, the difference between an arrow that might indicate a turning scenario and an alert that might indicate you’re going to crash into a tree could be muddled or misinterpreted due to the quantity of data provided and the distraction from the core driving experience.

    That positively screams "badly designed interface". I mean who puts an emergency signal silently in roughly the same spot that navigation icons are placed? Even Assassin's Creed Unity had better UI design than that (but not by much)

    I wish they'll do the test where there's a red light speed camera just in front of you, or a 40kmh zone with a speed camera.

    I know I now spend a lot of time looking at the speedometer and not at the road outside.

    Unless I set my cruise control, which I do for those long school 40kmh roads

    I'm a Pilot, and this sort of thing is pretty common in my line of work, particularly when Pilots move on Analogue Displays, the old fashioned round dials to all Digital Displays, there's a lot more information usually and it's arranged differently which makes it difficult at first but once you get used to it's a damned sight better. I imagine it'll be the same with cars, people using the HUDs will find it a bit disorientating at first but will get used it and I suspect find it far superior and those who come in and do their training in a car that only has a HUD won't know the difference!

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