Engineers have a role to play in improving road safety with non-distracting infotainment

As automotive technology pushes the boundaries of autonomy, driver assistance and in-vehicle information, communications and entertainment technology, psychology and ergonomics begin to play a more significant role in making the driving experience a safe one. Place the latest offering from Volvo’s 2020

range alongside a 1970 Morris Minor and it’s abundantly clear how much the technology has advanced in 50 years in all aspects, most noticeably survivability. The Morris not only looks more dangerous, but feels very precarious and it is likely that it will be driven more carefully than the Volvo because of a feeling of driver vulnerability. The dangers now are less about collision

avoidance technology or passive survival systems such as air bags and crumple zones, but more about keeping the driver’s mind and eyes on the road rather than the technological playground of the dashboard. Some infotainment system suppliers, such as Harman, place a very high emphasis on

on popular mobile phone operating systems. The problem with such systems is that they are platforms on which applications can be built without necessarily being engineered to suit the environment in which they’ll be used. The study explored both voice and touch

control, with both found to distract drivers – though touch control proved the more distracting of the two. The results revealed that participants’

❱❱ A TRL study has found that infotainment systems have the potential to be significant sources of distraction to drivers

distraction avoidance. Engineers at Harman work with Tier 1 automotive companies on developing cabin electronics systems that harmonise with control functions, lighting and safety systems to eliminate distraction while providing the functions that drivers are demanding. However, not all infotainment systems are designed in such a coordinated way and some can be a source of considerable distraction. Now, the UK’s Transport Research

Laboratory (TRL) has conducted a study alongside the Institution of Advanced Motorists (IAM) on the impact of in-vehicle infotainment systems such as those based

reaction times when engaging with either system were more than 50 per cent slower than normal. Stopping distances, lane control and response to external stimuli were all impaired. Significantly, the participants’ reaction

times were worse than someone driving at the legal limit of alcohol consumption. TRL has a powerful voice in the formation

of road legislation and has considerable influence in the UK automotive industry and the study shows that work needs to be done to make sure that inappropriate, distracting products don’t make their way onto vehicle dashboards. The role of engineers in combining the

functions of infotainment systems with the requirements of a safe and non-distracting environment is an important one.

❱❱ SEAT driver surveillance system aims to reduce accidents caused by drowsiness or distraction


A biometric vision system is under development to tackle the problems of driver distraction and drowsiness

Spanish car manufacturer, SEAT, is working with Eyesight Technologies to develop advanced technology that studies a driver’s eyes and head movement to detect if they

8 /// Testing & Test Houses /// April 2020

are falling asleep or distracted. It uses an algorithm which analyses the eye openness, angle of vision, blink rate and head position of the driver, along with other visual attributes. In the event it detects that the driver is

drowsy, asleep or perhaps distracted by their mobile phone, it will trigger an alert. Eventually, the software will be able to detect pedestrians and analyse whether the driver has spotted them as well. Research has shown that driver

distraction and tiredness are among the

biggest dangers on the roads, contributing to 36 per cent of road traffic collisions. According to Stefan Ilijevic, head of

product innovation at SEAT, more than 90 per cent of road accidents in Europe are caused by human factors with the main reasons being distraction and tiredness, excessive speed, alcohol and drugs. “At SEAT we are working on solutions to

prevent negligence behind the steering wheel and significantly reduce road accidents,” says Ilijevic.

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