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Issue 477, 18 February 2002

More HASTE makes for less distraction

As technology becomes more sophisticated, and we spend more time on the road, the car is becoming a mobile office, with everything from phones and email to traffic advice or warnings and navigation systems.

In the driving seat – Oliver Carsten

Known collectively as in-vehicle information systems (IVIS), these technologies all pose potential distractions to the driver, and the Institute for Transport Studies is co-ordinating a Europe-wide evaluation to assess the safety risks involved.

Current safety procedures for IVIS are based on a checklist which sets out likely problems, but doesn't attempt to quantify them. The Leeds research will allow systems to be rated for safety, providing the basis for EU policy and standardisation, and giving authorities a valid and reliable tool for their safety evaluation of IVIS.

Project director Dr Oliver Carsten said: "These types of equipment create complex tasks, which are both mentally and visually demanding. We need to create a benchmark, to determine at what point the driver's attention is distracted, and what risks that might pose in different contexts, from motorway driving to urban areas."

The project will last three years, and involve extensive testing in simulators and on the road. The initial testing will force drivers to conduct complicated tasks while driving in a simulator, to see how the quality of driving is affected. The second stage will use actual in-car systems, in simulators and on the road (in controlled situations). Results will be validated to draw up a consistent safety standard.

The research is being funded by the European Commission, and involves universities and industry partners from The Netherlands, Sweden, Finland, Portugal and Canada.

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