Measuring Cognitive Distraction in the Automobile III: A Comparison of Ten 2015 In-Vehicle Information Systems

This research represents the third phase of the Foundation’s investigation into cognitive distraction, examining the cognitive demand of completing several common tasks on the in-vehicle infotainment systems of 10 new vehicles available in the U.S.

October 2015

Suggested Citation

For media inquiries, contact:

Tamra Johnson
202-942-2079
TRJohnson@national.aaa.com

Authors

David L. Strayer, Ph.D.

Joel M. Cooper, Ph.D.

Jonna Turrill

James R. Coleman

Rachel J. Hopman

Abstract

This research represents the third phase of the Foundation’s comprehensive investigation into cognitive distraction, which shows that new hands-free technologies can mentally distract drivers even if their eyes are on the road and their hands are on the wheel.

Measuring Cognitive Distraction in the Automobile III: A Comparison of Ten 2015 In-Vehicle Information Systems

Objective

  • The objective of this research was to examine the impact of IVIS (in-vehicle information systems) interactions on the driver’s cognitive workload.

Methods

  • The selected tasks and experimental structure were designed to extend prior work using embedded vehicle systems:
    • Evaluated cognitive demands of 10 2015 vehicles’ IVIS
      • 257 subjects participated; 127 males and 130 females, with an average age of 44 and divided into three age categories: young (21-34), middle aged (35-53) and old (54-70).
      • 6 distinct tasks were given to participants utilizing the vehicles’ unique voice activated information system – including contact calling, number dialing, and music selection while they were driving.
      • Post-test evaluation captured participants’ results after a week of practice time with the tasks in the research vehicle.
      • Cognitive workload was assessed on a 5-point scale, where 1 represented just driving (no interaction with IVIS) and 5 represented the workload associated with the OSPAN task (mentally challenging math and memory tasks).

Key Findings

Major Findings:

  • (IVIS) use is associated with moderate to high levels of cognitive distraction for the driver.
    • Overall workload ratings associated with IVIS interactions ranged from 2.37 to 4.58, which depicts a moderate to high level of cognitive workload – while drivers were at no time required to take their eyes off the road or hands off the wheel.
  • Practice doesn’t eliminate the cognitive distraction caused by IVIS interactions.
    • Practice improved IVIS interactions slightly, but intuitiveness and complexity ratings were not affected as a result of practice.
  • Older drivers experience a higher level of cognitive distraction with IVIS interactions, compared to younger and middle-aged drivers.
    • Older adults also rated IVIS interactions as more complex than the two younger groups.
  • There were considerable differences in the cognitive workload of the different IVIS systems
    • Chevy Equinox MyLink had the lowest rating, while the Mazda 6’s Connect had the highest rating on the cognitive workload scale.
    • Robust, intuitive systems with lower levels of complexity and shorter task durations result in less cognitive distraction.
  • Cognitive distraction associated with task performance was surprisingly high
    • Serves as a warning that “hands-free” technologies can be very cognitively demanding.
    • Compared to our earlier research, many of the IVIS interactions appear to be significantly more demanding than typical cell phone conversations (rated 2.3 on the same scale).
  • There were residual costs after IVIS interactions were over.
    • Just because a driver terminates a call or music selection doesn’t mean they are no longer impaired – impairment lingered up to 27 seconds after a task was completed.

Suggested Citation

For media inquiries, contact:

Tamra Johnson
202-942-2079
TRJohnson@national.aaa.com

Authors

David L. Strayer, Ph.D.

Joel M. Cooper, Ph.D.

Jonna Turrill

James R. Coleman

Rachel J. Hopman