Research Archive

Research Plan Research Progress and Insights

Operating the radio, eating, passenger noise, and fatigue are among a variety of distractions that drivers have always encountered. With the recent growth in technologies and portable devices used in vehicles, drivers now face an increasing number of distractions, further high-lighting the need for human factors research.  The objective of the research program in human factors for connected vehicles is to assess, counteract, and ultimately eliminate possible driver distraction from technologies that enable wireless communication between vehicles. The program aims to research and implement technology-based solutions that could deter drivers from multitasking and reduce vehicular sources of distraction.

Using a cooperative and cost-sharing approach, the program is working with NHTSA and other DOT agencies and vehicle manufacturers, operators, and equipment suppliers. This collaborative effort will continue to raise public awareness about the distracted driving problem and encourage vehicle and equipment manufacturers to design interfaces with minimal demands on driver workload. The program goals outlined below guide the overall research. Success factors include the ability to:

  • Lower the frequency with which drivers multitask to reduce their exposure to risk;
  • Reduce the complexity of distracting tasks and reduce demands on driver attention;
  • Manage the multitasking options that drivers can make to avoid overloading them; and
  • Assist distracted drivers through in-vehicle technologies that monitor their attention status and provide feedback on unsafe behaviors and potential crashes.

Research Tracks

Similar to the other research programs, the Human Factors Research program is using a multi-track approach:

  • Track 1:  Define the problem by identifying the types of distractions that contribute to crashes. Distraction is anything that diverts the driver’s attention from navigating the vehicle, and it often fits into more than one category.  For example, eating is visual and manual, while using a navigation system is visual, manual, and cognitive.
  • Track 2: Develop and evaluate performance metrics for distraction mitigation. By monitoring new technology interfaces and developing best practices, objective test procedures can be developed to assess distraction and usability of production vehicles and portable device technologies.
  • Track 3: Produce an integration strategy that enables the filtering, prioritization, and scheduling of information from different safety and non-safety applications so that drivers are not overloaded. The approach will also allow portable systems to be functionally integrated with vehicle-based systems to optimize the driver/vehicle interface. Integration reduces interface complexity and multitasking. In addition, real-time distraction monitoring systems that provide distraction alerts or messages are potential areas of integration research.
  • Track 4: Develop longer-term exposure testing through field operational experiments to determine the safety impacts of crash warning technologies and their effects on long-term driver behavior that could affect the safety of distracted drivers.
  • Track 5: Perform strategic outreach with stakeholders to identify requirements, information needs, and usability issues, so that the program and its results are publicly acceptable.

The Human Factors Research program is a highly collaborative effort that addresses the effectiveness of safety applications by evaluating any potential issues around driver distraction. The program will work toward mitigating any distracting by products from using In-Vehicle Information Systems (IVIS) and develop technology-based solutions.

Research Goals:

  • To provide drivers with safe advisories, alerts,  and warnings through advanced vehicle  technologies, both built into the original equipment and brought into the vehicle  (portable  technologies), that increase highway safety and offer drivers and passengers the promise of enhanced safety, comfort, security,  and convenience.
  • To control and mitigate the ever-present and growing threat to safety represented by driver distraction, which is a factor in many crashes.
  • To evaluate driver distractions and other human factors related to ITS, leveraging the convergent findings of epidemiological studies, experimental studies, and analyses of crash data.

Research Outcomes:

The outcomes are intended to eliminate distractions related to vehicle-based wireless communication devices as a contributing factor to crashes.