Traffic is moderately heavy as I speed down the freeway, my eyes darting from the road ahead to the screen in the middle of my dashboard.
My task seems relatively simple: just find the address of a restaurant stored in my car’s navigation system and set is as my destination. But before I realize what’s happening, I’m about to slam into the car ahead. It’s a good thing it’s only a digital image on a virtual reality screen or I might be calling for a tow truck or worse, an ambulance.
Such a scenario shows just how dangerous the growing number of video screens in vehicles can be. Taken to its logical conclusion, automakers should be taking navigation systems out of cars. Precisely the opposite is happening of course, as they are are very profitable options.
A recent conference focused on the dangers of using cellphones to send text messages while driving. And there’s evidence that to simply make phone calls while you’re behind the wheel is the equivalent of drunk driving. But with the automobile becoming more and more the mobile equivalent of your living room or office there are plenty of other potential distractions that could lead to serious problems as well.
Which technology simply doesn’t belong? And how do you make seemingly mundane tasks, like finding a song on your car’s audio system, safer? That’s the goal of Ford Motor Company’s Human Machine Interface Verification Laboratory, otherwise known as the Distraction Lab.