News reports and other media outlets often highlight the benefits of advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS). These safety systems such as lane-keeping assist and collision detection are features that work in conjunction with safe driving habits to help drivers reduce distractions and avoid devastating crashes. Unfortunately, some systems can ultimately have an opposite unintended side effect on many drivers.
An HUD (heads-up display) system projects data from a sensor in the dashboard into the driver’s line of sight on the windshield. The goal of this system is to remove the need drivers might have to look away from the road to examine the various read-outs on the instrument panel. The safety system is designed to project transparent numbers and icons that a driver can identify yet still see through to recognize hazards on the road around them. Unfortunately, researchers have found that this might lead to a dangerous loss of focus.
Studies published by the University of Toronto show that an HUD system could provide the perfect multi-tasking environment for drivers to lose focus on the safe operation of the vehicle. The very nature of the comprehensive HUD system works against its safety, say researchers.
The system can display information ranging from an incoming phone call and cabin air temperature to vehicle speed and collision detection. With such a range of information presented at once, drivers have to recognize each piece of data and sift through it at a moment’s notice. Unfortunately, important warnings can be lost in the shuffle. Drivers must split their focus from the road to a single piece of data back to the road back to another piece of data. This focus-switch can lead to a loss of attention and invite disaster.
Additionally, drivers might be lulled into a false sense of security by the technological wonder of their digital safety systems. When they feel safe and secure, drivers might be more likely to engage in other distracting activities such as making a phone call, eating or personal grooming while behind the wheel. Taken together, these distractions can result in serious collisions with severe injuries.