A haptic feedback technology from Continental Automotive provides a pulse signal to dashboard buttons, thus enabling drivers to feel the controls and focus on the road ahead. (Source: Continental Automotive North America)
The more technological advances become available, the more problems stemming from the use of that technology becomes evident. Just look at the abuses that occur in cyberspace because it is not regulated. I think Star Trek had the right of it - we need a Prime Directive to regulate human behavior since we can't seem to do it ourselves...what is it that the Terminator said about humanity - "It is in your nature to destroy yourselves." Okay maybe I am being a bit overdramatic but I think it's a valid point...if left to our own devices we want instant gratification regardless of the safety issues that may be involved. We want to hear our radio station right now! even if we are driving in traffic and have to glance down to see the right preselect button to push - or we MUST read that text because it can't wait 5 minutes...the world might end...
Not only that, Elizabeth - people become desensitized to whatever is serving to direct their attention. Those LED lights will work the first few times to redirect a person's attention - until they get used to them. As Charles said - the technology to fix technology doesn't work well...it's a losing proposition. If everyone lost a family member in a car accident due to someone texting or looking at their "Smart" phone (not very smart if you ask me since it causes such irresponsible behavior) then I think that ban on technology devices would pass.
What we have here, Liz, is technology that's meant to fix a problem that technology caused in the first place. The obvious solution is not to let a lot of this stuff into the car in the first place. Unfortunately, that's never going to happen.
I was amazed by how many of these solutions, and the subsequent discussion, confused "eyes on the road" with "mind on the road". They take the need to look away from the road away, or remind you to look back. Instead they distract you with your eyes in place. Heads up displays are a perfect example of this. If you have 20 pieces of information popping at you, it hardly matters whether it is on your dashboard or on your windshield.
Right approach, reduce interaction, reduce interruption. For example, a reminder to get your oil changed should only appear when the vehicle is stopped. Calendar reminders and other non-critical items should not even be available while the engine is on.
To that end, voice command is a good thing. However, audio cues and flashing lights should be limited to critical matters. Nothing should grab your attention unless it is critical (e.g. you are about to run out of gas).
All of the focus in this discussion is on the driver. I find that an important factor in safe driving is knowing what the other drivers are doing, or are going to do. The ones who do not use their turn signals are the biggest problem I face. My way of dealing with it is to be very defensive, and use my headlight flasher to signal them to go first. That way I can avoid the surprise of them making a left turn in front of me with no warning.
Drivers who do not turn on their headlight when it is getting dark, or it is raining are another problem. At least some cars have automatic lights and wipers. As I have said several times in these blogs, bad car design is also a problem. Light placement and brightness, hard to see instrument panels and displays are other examples. Many times I have faced a car with its turn signals on at night, and I could not tell because they were so close to the bright headlights that they were overpowered. It is important to remember that drivers must deal with other traffic along with their own car.
People designing cars must be made aware of simple physics, such the relative brightness of lights, and making sure the driver can actually see out of the car. or read the speedometer in varying light conditions. Also not putting important display information in a place where it is blocked by the steering wheel is important. The more I read what I have said, the more it sounds like the real answer is driverless cars.
Put another way, "You can't fix stupid." People who don't understand the risk, can't take steps to avoid the risk. And most people don't understand the risk, including me sometimes. Driverless cars present entirely different problems, but it's entirely possible they are more amenable to a technological solution. Stupidity is resistant to a technological solution.
Pilots are taught to constantly scan for traffic rather than to focus in one direction and to use off-center viewing because of the way the eye perceives objects. Of course the same problem is applicable to automobiles. This link has a rather frightening demonstration of how bad the problem can be. Imagine one of those yellow dots being another vehicle.
These are all really interesting and it's good that engineers are looking to solve the distraction problem. But just to play devil's advocate--don't you think sometimes that more technology in cars that is meant to fix this problem would actually distract people more? I know personally that when I'm in a car with sat/nav or a visual screen mapping my location, sometimes I pay more attention to that than the road! I'm sure research is taking all of this into account, but just food for thought.
The real problem is that most of the distractions are provided by the items that add the greaates profit for the manufacturer. That is why we have a climate control system that has a digital temperature display, 47 different modes, and 35 different blower speeds. All of that, and then they still use REALLY STUPID icons for a lot of the important things. The low tire pressure warning light icon looks a lot like a flame, and it is certainly flame colored. That was very distracting the first time it came on, early in the morning. I certainly agree about the touch screens, in that it is required to place one's finger in just the right spot, and there are no textural ques as to where that is. The result is spending several seconds to find and activate some function. Having a knob or button for each function is a bit less distracting, if there are not to many of them. But reducing the number reduces the profit.
Then there are the multi-level t5rees that provide an order of magnitude more distraction. They are bad enough on a cell phone, they are really bad on an instrument panel. And much worse on a cell phone in a car in motion.
We need to recall that the primary target of all auto design is to maximize profit so that the chief engineers get larger bonuses. Safety is primarily added because ignoring it hurts the bottom line, if it is ignored a bit to much, and if they are unlucky. So it is not really likely that automakers will voluntarily givve up any of those high profit distractions. But possibly, if the traffic safety people ignore the screams, it may be that some of the distractions can be eliminated.
For industrial control applications, or even a simple assembly line, that machine can go almost 24/7 without a break. But what happens when the task is a little more complex? That’s where the “smart” machine would come in. The smart machine is one that has some simple (or complex in some cases) processing capability to be able to adapt to changing conditions. Such machines are suited for a host of applications, including automotive, aerospace, defense, medical, computers and electronics, telecommunications, consumer goods, and so on. This discussion will examine what’s possible with smart machines, and what tradeoffs need to be made to implement such a solution.