TRL’s head of impairment research, Dr Paul Jackson, has argued that the evidence base regarding distracted driving has failed to keep up with technological developments. He has called for research to assess the distracting effects of the latest in-vehicle infotainment systems/human machine interfaces (HMIs).
Jackson’s announcement comes after Highways England recently expressed concerns about the safety of in-car touchscreens and their potential to distract drivers.
These concerns are borne out in previous studies. For example, according to Horberry et al (2006) using an entertainment system was more distracting than conducting a hands-free cell phone call. Lansdowne (2012) found that drivers perceive using unfamiliar car controls and car displays, or add-on media (for example, music devices) to be more distracting than using a hands-free phone.
In the years since these studies were conducted, in-car entertainment systems have become even more advanced, leading to TRL calling for a number of key questions to be answered, including: To what extent are research studies based on cell phone use relevant to modern HMIs? Is further research required to investigate the effects of interacting with the latest versions of HMI? Should a limit be placed on the features added to HMIs?