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University of Iowa to study safety warning interfaces in NHTSA-funded project

October 13, 2009

University of Iowa to study safety warning interfaces in NHTSA-funded project

University of Iowa researchers will use a US$1 million grant from the
National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to help determine
the effect of various vehicle safety warning interfaces on driver
safety. The warning interfaces could be as simple as an audible tone, or
as complex as vehicle control inputs designed to prevent a crash. The
researchers will make use of the National Advanced Driving Simulator
(NADS) to explore how new approaches to warning distracted drivers will
perform. Located at the UI Research Park – a research and teaching unit
of the College of Engineering – NADS is the most sophisticated
research-driving simulator in the world.

The study will examine how in-vehicle lane departure warning systems
work when drivers are distracted in different ways. Specifically, the
study will examine how different types of warnings – which vary in
levels of direct intervention – affect a driver’s ability to
successfully respond while the driver is distracted. For example, when
the vehicle is drifting out of the lane, the system could selectively
apply the brakes on one side of the vehicle or turn the steering wheel
to stop the vehicle from drifting out of the lane. At one level, this
could be a gentle application that slows or stops the drift. However, a
more severe intervention might involve turning the wheel more sharply or
applying greater braking pressure to quickly correct the drift.

Timothy L. Brown, NADS senior human factors researcher and director of
the 14-month study, says that driver distraction continues to be a
significant traffic safety concern, and warnings from vehicle safety
systems have the potential to partially mitigate the problem. “Driver
distraction is an increasing safety problem on our nation’s roadways.
Developing an understanding of how interfaces for vehicle safety systems
can improve or reduce the negative effects of driver distraction is a
critical step in reducing distraction-related crashes,” he says Brown.
Brown will conduct the study in collaboration with Daniel McGehee of the
UI Public Policy Center and John D Lee of the University of Wisconsin.
Brown adds that the new study is the latest in a series of
NHTSA-sponsored UI projects to investigate the role of distraction on
driver safety. A 2008 study looked at how future vehicles may be able to
detect whether iPods, cell phones and other devices are present in the
car, and whether the driver is looking away from the roadway.

13 October 2009

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