Leveraging smart devices to design against driver distractions and boredom
Steinberger, Fabius (2016) Leveraging smart devices to design against driver distractions and boredom. In BMW Summer School: Car as a Service – Creating Tomorrow’s Smart Mobility Service Platform, 18-23 July 2016, Lake Tegernsee, Bavaria, Germany. (Unpublished)
Smart devices and internet connectivity have become part of our everyday lives. As a result, there has been an increase in drivers accessing social media and apps behind the steering wheel, and mobile devices are often portrayed as unwanted distractions. Regardless of punitive strategies such as fines and demerit points, drivers will continue to bring their own devices and use them within the car. I explore how these technologies can be re-contextualised as tools in individual mobility rather than road safety threats. Specifically, I critically analyse the challenges and opportunities in the design of apps to alleviate driver boredom and reengage drivers during periods of understimulation. The concept involves the use of realtime data, locationbased services, ambient interface design, and gamification to provide safe stimuli while driving.
My data indicates that driver boredom is most likely to occur in lowstimulation conditions such as routine drives, speed maintaining, or low traffic. This uncomfortable state may then trigger the seeking of distractions (e.g. phone use), which in turn can lead to accidents. Intervening in such a way that it makes low-stimulation driving more engaging and less boring could have safety and user experience benefits. Semiautomated driving further amplifies the significance of this work. A cutback in manual control is likely to cause boredom states more often, yet requires drivers to remain vigilant and take over control at any time.
To date, boredom and under-stimulation have not received much attention in the automotive user interfaces and road safety research communities, where the emphasis has been on cognitive load and distraction. My work aims to explore this knowledge gap. I use a usercentred design approach to address the question: How can we leverage mobile and wearable devices to reengage drivers in the driving task? I argue that these devices can be used for 1) sensing vehicle and driver data, and 2) as platforms for engaging apps to reduce unsafe distractions and boredom. As part of this endeavour, I explore ambient interface design and gamification as ways to provide realtime driving feedback and engage users in the driving task. Applying user-centred design and reframing distraction as engagement is a new and provocative approach. Insights gained from this research study will deepen our understanding of driver engagement, which is as relevant to manual driving as it is to semiautomated mobility.
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