Using Sound to Reduce Visual Distraction from In-vehicle Human-Machine Interfaces
Journal article, 2015
Objective: Driver distraction and inattention are the main causes of accidents. The fact that devices such as navigation displays and media players are part of the distraction problem has led to the formulation of guidelines advocating various means for minimizing the visual distraction from such interfaces. However, although design guidelines and recommendations are followed, certain interface interactions, such as menu browsing, still require off-road visual attention that increases crash risk. In this article, we investigate whether adding sound to an in-vehicle user interface can provide the support necessary to create a significant reduction in glances toward a visual display when browsing menus.
Methods: Two sound concepts were developed and studied; spearcons (time-compressed speech sounds) and earcons (musical sounds). A simulator study was conducted in which 14 participants between the ages of 36 and 59 took part. Participants performed 6 different interface tasks while driving along a highway route. A 3 x 6 within-group factorial design was employed with sound (no sound /earcons/spearcons) and task (6 different task types) as factors. Eye glances and corresponding measures were recorded using a head-mounted eye tracker. Participants' self-assessed driving performance was also collected after each task with a 10-point scale ranging from 1 = very bad to 10 = very good. Separate analyses of variance (ANOVAs) were conducted for different eye glance measures and self-rated driving performance.
Results: It was found that the added spearcon sounds significantly reduced total glance time as well as number of glances while retaining task time as compared to the baseline (= no sound) condition (total glance time M = 4.15 for spearcons vs. M = 7.56 for baseline, p =.03). The earcon sounds did not result in such distraction-reducing effects. Furthermore, participants ratings of their driving performance were statistically significantly higher in the spearcon conditions compared to the baseline and earcon conditions (M = 7.08vs. M = 6.05 and M = 5.99 respectively, p =.035 and p =.002).
Conclusions: The spearcon sounds seem to efficiently reduce visual distraction, whereas the earcon sounds did not reduce distraction measures or increase subjective driving performance. An aspect that must be further investigated is how well spearcons and other types of auditory displays are accepted by drivers in general and how they work in real traffic.