Mind-Reading Machines: Improving the Driving Experience

Technology allows us to do more than ever before, and that includes user testing that gets inside the heads of consumers to improve the driving experience.

While we watch technology move forward at an unprecedented rate, we have to constantly make sure we’re keeping up. Recent developments have radically changed the experience felt by drivers and passengers, and it seems this trend is going to continue. However, the good news is that technology can work with us even more than it’s against us. We simply have to know how to use it!

Connected Cars Can Cause Challenges

To start, let’s think about how internet connectivity is changing things. By providing a continuous online connection, connected cars and hybrid navigation solutions offer great new possibilities for both engineers and users of navigation systems. At the same time, these new technologies cause the two groups to face new challenges. The improved and more developed infotainment systems combine with the constant online presence, and this leads to new functions and applications. Altogether, it’s more information that the driver of the car needs to process.

More Information Than Ever Before

It’s not just the amount of information that’s growing, but the amount, size, and resolution of displays are all also getting larger in vehicles. Extensive information appears over an extended area, and this means that information is not just beside central head units and instrument cluster displays, but also projected on head up displays. This enhanced environment can be demanding for the driver by splitting attention, so these new technological trends are bringing driver safety more into focus.

How Do We Think?

In the effort to provide a balance between assisting the driver without causing too much distraction, it’s important to deeply understand the way users think.  We even have to understand how they process information while driving, and we must keep this in mind during all stages of the development process. It is important to find a tool to make driver distraction measurable during improvement of navigation systems.

User experience heatmap

Reading Minds

Driving simulator testing is an efficient tool to implement driver safety guidelines in UI designing processes, even before bringing the product to development. With the help of a driving simulator software, participants are engaged in real driving situations, such as highway driving or city maneuvering. During the driving task, these test subjects are asked to use the navigation software and solve usability problems that can be relevant in that situation. Meanwhile, the researcher can stand by and observe user behavior directly. This method allows designers to test navigation design concepts in the prototyping phase, and to keep the testing in a safe environment.

Types of Driver Distraction

When we break it down, there are three main types of driver distraction. The first is cognitive distraction, and this is anything that goes on in the minds of the drivers that causes them to shift their focus away from the control of the car. Next is manual distraction, and this is any situation that requires drivers to take their hands off of the wheel. The third is visual distraction, and this is a time when the eyes of the drivers aren’t focused on the road.

Just the Beginning

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Measuring driver experience is an immensely complicated topic, and it’s impossible to collect everything worth knowing into one blog post. This article is meant to be a general introduction, but check back soon to learn more about the theories and methods that we’re working with.

Until then, don’t let these thoughts distract you while behind the wheel!

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