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Smart Cars: Too Distracting? 180

Posted by Soulskill
from the yes-it-keeps-beeping-at-me-when-i-try-to-catch-a-quick-nap dept.
Taco Cowboy writes "The vehicles we drive are getting smarter and smarter, as more and more gadgets are being crammed into them. But as those devices creep into the driving experience, they offer the driver an increasing number of displays to monitor. Thus, drivers are more distracted than ever. At the recent 'Connected Car Expo,' which was held in Los Angeles, panelists discussed how these smart car features can impair driving ability. For example, researchers led by Bruce Mehler at MIT revealed that drivers using voice command interfaces to control in-car navigation systems or USB-connected music devices can end up spending longer with their eyes off the road than those using conventional systems. You'd think being able to operate it by voice alone would be beneficial compared to older radio systems. (Tuning an older radio was used as a baseline task in these tests.) But according to Mehler, problems arise when the system needs clarification of what the driver wants, which often happens while they're trying to feed an address into a navigation system."
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Smart Cars: Too Distracting?

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  • by zAPPzAPP (1207370) on Wednesday December 11, 2013 @09:21AM (#45659489)

    If the system needs clarification and this requires the driver to inspect the screen, isn't that a problem with the implementation?

    Clarification should be requested and should be given in voice alone.

    Anything else defeats the purpose of the voice interface, doesn't it?

  • by TheGratefulNet (143330) on Wednesday December 11, 2013 @09:23AM (#45659507)

    user interfaces have gotton very shitty since a lot of it is outsourced and foreign designers have a 'grid' mentality (to save cost as the ONLY thing they care about).

    look at most guis, also. grids of buttons. they don't often stray from a matrix style of rows and columns. blech! there's no navigation ability (to find the button you want, quickly) when its all just anonymous style rows and cols.

    I always vary my gui designs and try to make each screen very unique and easy to quickly ID.

    when I build hardware, I vary the layout and use diff size and shape buttons and the more important ones are bigger and never near the dangerous ones (how many times have you seen a quit button next to a very important button, with a small mouse slip its easy to make a BIG mistake).

    gui layout is an art form but we give it to 'mechanical' style people (ie, robot thinking) and for manuf costs, we mostly go with grid layouts; which is really working against us, for human factors usability.

    finally, programmers won't commit to a set of features and they are also lazy. look at android. so many apps keep changing their layout. they dont' CARE if the user just learned the previous layout, they want change for change sake; and also because they were in such a rush to get something out, they have not taken enough time to think about what long-term buttons should be there and how to keep them stable from release to release (same location, color, shape and away from other 'dangerous' buttons that you don't want to hit by accident).

    on the side, I design and build hardware (audio gear and test equip gear) and all of my designs use hardware buttons and I think long and hard before I pick a layout. once I do, I stick with it and the goal is to have the gear still be around and useful 20 or more years later. almost no one has that goal anymore - what a shame.

  • by ebno-10db (1459097) on Wednesday December 11, 2013 @09:33AM (#45659553)

    One thing auto makers can do is bring back old-school dashboards with tactile buttons laid out in a distinct, logical way.

    That's the kind of thing aircraft manufacturer's understood a long time ago. When they switched to "glass cockpits" they actually did serious ergonomic design and testing. That's why many key controls are still of the sort you mention, and some critical functions still use old-fashioned "analog" (really electro-mechanical) displays and whatnot. Even before they went to glass cockpits aircraft designs involved serious ergonomic design/testing. Part of it is that the greater complexity of aircraft, and the more advanced instrumentation compared to cars, forced them to confront this problem a long time ago. Part of it though is the aircraft industry has these eccentric ideas about making things functional and useful. With cars it's "look at the pretty lights - marketing will love this".

  • by Shavano (2541114) on Wednesday December 11, 2013 @09:46AM (#45659623)

    Exactly this. With a touch screen you MUST look at the device to command it. There's no alternative. With voice commands, they get triggered by conversation. (This happened to my in-laws when they were on the phone with my wife.) Or they could get triggered by audio coming over your radio. Imagine what happens when an ad for Burger King comes on the radio and they direct everybody to the nearest restaurant!

    This needs to become part of law and driving instructions. Fiddling with any kind of touch screen when in a driving lane needs to be against the law.

  • by bradley13 (1118935) on Wednesday December 11, 2013 @09:46AM (#45659627) Homepage

    It all comes down to user interface design. A good interface will grab you attention only when it has something important to say. And it will avoid false warnings. A lousy interface *is* distracting. So is an interface that screws up, by grabbing your attention with incorrect or irrelevant information.

    Just as an example: my current car has a very distracting audible and visual warning when it detects ice on the road. The problem is: this warning delivers 99% false positives (in fact, it seems to be triggered simply by the thermometer crossing a temperature threshold (3C), in either direction). So - yes - it is a dangerous distraction. However, if the manufacturer had actually gotten it right, it would have been very valuable.

    As far as issuing commands, it is really the same thing: poor design. Is the interface reliable enough that you can trust it to do what you say? Does it give positive confirmation, or leave you wondering?

  • by CubicleZombie (2590497) on Wednesday December 11, 2013 @09:51AM (#45659643)

    Thing is, it doesn't take an enormous amount of intelligence to drive. Otherwise we'd have PhD grads driving trucks.

    Your PhD grad probably couldn't drive a truck.

  • by nimbius (983462) on Wednesday December 11, 2013 @09:59AM (#45659693) Homepage
    smart cars, connected cars that is, are regular cars with more gadgets and gizmos. cars that check email, report weather, play pandora and such are a recent development of course, and not one i may add that many drivers care for. Some argue they exist as a marketing effort to spur millenials to purchase automobiles. As a millenial myself, and one with an automobile that gladly interfaces with my phone to play pandora radio, I can confirm the marketing effort is misplaced.
    what executives and marketing C-levels dont understand is that boomers drove because it was still fun. gas was inexpensive, income was plentiful to afford a car and its upkeep, and the novelty of road trips was still something most americans found fascinating and entertaining. Gen Xers piled their kids into SUV's for the ego stroke and gas, while not expensive, was still relatively affordable but something else changed. Traffic was becoming universally abhorrent. the much adored culdesac street planning mandate from the sixties had snarled it for miles and government budgets began to resemble holocaust victims to such a degree that potholes capable of puncturing a tire became commonplace on most commutes. the Xers responded by buying larger SUV's like the H2 and turning up the 20 speaker stereo to drown out the din of the crumbling pavement on their way to the cube farm.

    fast forward to the millenials of today. the economic collapse of 2008 has caused most governments to send their highway planning divisions packing as their budgets turn tits up. highways and byways now look more like Reuters photos of bombed out occupied zones. Gasoline is so expensive as to make a road trip a punchline, and traffic congestion models the zombie apocalypse flicks we've glued ourselves to for the last 5 years. whats worse is most of the millenials you see today are falling apart under the weight of their college loans and an average wage thats declined precipitously for 30 years under the guise of free market capitalism. "a new car" for most millenials is a used SUV from a gen-Xer who just had to sell it to make the mortgage gestapo leave them alone for another week. factoring its voraceous appetite for gas, its high mileage, and its mad-max driver, all we've scored is a time-bomb with eddie bauer seats. So lets address the C-levels now...you want to sell us a new, tiny car with lots of gizmos and great gas mileage for less than 20k and while we applaud the offering we still can barely afford, the roads still suck and the insurance is only slightly less expensive than our education loans. Thank you no, the idea smacks of stupidity.

    I can take the bus for a fraction of the cost of owning a car. I dont care if it takes 45 minutes because I have a smart phone, or tablet. im connected to all my friends, including the one im going to meet up with for drinks and dinner. my phone will warn me about making my stop, and let me recharge the fare on my card while i leave the driving to a competent, qualified and much more seasoned bus driver. i dont have to pay insurance, worry about parking, fret about the cost of gas, or earn a ticket for speeding

    to put it quite simply: stop trying to sell me a $30,000 iphone case with wheels.
  • by jimbobborg (128330) on Wednesday December 11, 2013 @10:19AM (#45659803)

    I dream of a truly smart car that prevents the drivers from doing stupid shit while driving, like making that left turn in front of me while I'm riding my motorcycle.

  • by TonyJohn (69266) on Wednesday December 11, 2013 @01:50PM (#45661709) Homepage

    Self driving car like Google's?

    No. See, when I was testing one, it kept taking me to places where it thought I would be interested in - places that paid Google for ads.

    So, instead to my destination, the Google car took me to McDonald's, then to Penny's and lastly to HomeDepot for their big sale.

    That sounds a lot like my experience of the tuk-tuks in Bangkok.

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