Why Do We Need Standards for HMI Development?

Will Hornick

Distracted driving accounted for approximately 421,000 injuries in motor vehicle accidents during 2012 in the U.S. (Distraction.gov - the official U.S. government website for distracted driving information). Some additionally alarming figures:

  • 11% of all drivers under the age 20 involved in fatal crashes were reported as distracted at the time of the crash. This age group has the largest proportion of drivers who were distracted.
  • For drivers 15-19 years old involved in fatal crashes, 21% of the distracted drivers were distracted by the use of cell phones.
  • At any given daylight moment in the U.S. approximately 660,000 drivers are using cell phones or manipulating electronic devices while driving. This figure has remained the same since 2010.
  • Engaging in visual-manual subtasks (such as reaching for a phone, dialling and texting) associated with the use of hand-held phones and other portable devices, increases the risk of a crash by up to three times.
  • Sending or receiving a text takes a driver’s eyes from the road for an average of 4.6 seconds – at 55mph this is the equivalent of driving the length of an American football field, blind.
  • A quarter of teens respond to a text message once or more every time they drive, while 20% of teens and 10% of parents admit to having extended multi-message text conversations while they drive.

 photo Standards-for-HMI-Dev_zpsb453f50d.jpg Statistics for Europe are somewhat less dramatic however this is clearly an issue that needs to be addressed in the interest of road safety and the underlying issues stretch across both markets.

A real challenge for engineers is to figure out which functions to integrate into vehicles that will actually improve the driver experience. Integrating too few functions may actually have a negative effect as it would encourage drivers to resort to using their external devices in hand. Another major decision involves how to integrate those functions given the continuing evolution of interfaces available.

Part of the decision of choosing an interface (or having mixed interfaces in some cases) is that the interior of the vehicle plays a major role in helping a brand to distinguish itself from its competitors and is therefore a battleground in a sense for attractive design and innovations in functionality. There are touch screens, rotary controls, voice recognition systems, gesture control, and augmented reality displays that appear in the driver’s field of vision. This need for illuminating the brand DNA can pose a potential issue for drivers that move from one vehicle to another as he/she may not know what to do in terms of operating the controls.

 photo Nissa_mirror_zpsf4c1bf24.jpg

Image source: Nissan

What safety studies should an engineering team base their development decisions on?

A lot of the research that has been done on the subject of distraction has opened itself up to a considerable amount of criticism by not accurately defining what it is measuring. According to Paul Green, Leader of the Driver Interface Group at the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute:

We have a lot of practical problems that we have to solve. It is apparent that many of the systems that we worry about are going to distract drivers and lead to crashes. But we need to do a better job of defining the things that we measure so that when we present the findings of studies, others can rely on them.

Perhaps the answer therefore is to define not only a set of guidelines for HMI design and development but to also define the operational definitions of driving performance measures and statistics. The latter is actually a work in progress as SAE J2944.

The auto industry has struggled with the need to distinguish one brand from another throughout its history but without a set of standards/guidelines for development, the human-machine interface may turn into an Achilles’ heel for safety.


Will Hornick is the Managing Editor of Automotive IQ


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IQPC Gesellschaft für Management Konferenzen mbH
Adresse: Friedrichstrasse 94, 10117 Berlin
Telefonnummer: 030 20913 -274
Fax: 49 (0) 30 20 913 240
Email Adresse: info@iqpc.de
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Geschäftsführung: Silke Klaudat, Richard A. Worden, Michael R. Worden