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Consortium Establishes Approach For Evaluating Driver Workload As Advanced Controls And Automated Driving Technologies Expand

A $5 million industry investment to date in a consortium that includes automakers, automotive suppliers and global technology leaders is aiming to make roads safer by addressing the leading cause of auto accidents – driver error.

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Denso - LogoA $5 million industry investment to date in a consortium that includes automakers, automotive suppliers and global technology leaders is aiming to make roads safer by addressing the leading cause of auto accidents – driver error. This is being done through a focus on supporting more effective in-vehicle attention management.

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The Advanced Human Factors Evaluator for Automotive Demand (AHEAD) consortium has developed a safety-grounded Human Machine Interface (HMI) evaluation approach that is applicable for traditional vehicle control as well as increasingly automated driving. AHEAD was initially formed in 2013 by global automotive supplier DENSO, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) AgeLab and Touchstone Evaluations to address the challenge of distracted driving. The aim was to provide the auto industry with a driver attention assessment approach that better supports HMI evaluation as in-vehicle interface complexity continues to increase.

“Developing an objective, safety-based methodology for driver workload evaluation is critical for a safe HMI vehicle experience,” said Doug Patton, executive vice president and chief technology officer at DENSO’s North American headquarters in Southfield, Michigan. “This precompetitive consortium is an example of the type of partnerships that DENSO will support going forward.”

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Current evaluation methods for HMI technologies have been based upon criteria developed for primarily visual HMIs – those which preceded modern integrated technologies with multi-modal components, including voice interfaces, touchscreens and multi-function controllers. Earlier methods were not designed to consider the tradeoffs that exist as demand is moved between vision, touch, sound, haptics and gesture modalities with the full range of operating contexts, and with consideration of the advent of automation technologies that relieve the driver of demand.

AHEAD’s efforts aim to support HMI evaluation needs at multiple points in the design process. AHEAD has reported it is achieving these goals through the development of a set of evaluation tools that enhance how designers identify the attentional demands HMIs place on drivers as technology advances.

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“Our work over the past several years has been to understand multi-modal HMI demand, and to develop an attention-based evaluation method that will allow designers and system engineers to balance safety with drivers’ desire to stay connected,” said Bryan Reimer, research scientist at MIT.

AHEAD’s initial charter was in the context of HMI evaluation, but efforts are expanding to consider underload (including that induced by automation). As such, AHEAD’s perspective now moves beyond current global regulatory approaches and other industry guidelines to allow for the assessment of HMI demands in the context of attention management, with strong ties to situation awareness. AHEAD says the resulting models are extendable into real-time attention management systems, applicable both to traditional vehicle control and automated driving.

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Current members of the consortium include DENSO, Honda, Jaguar Land Rover, Panasonic Automotive and Google.

Further details on the AHEAD consortium can be found at http://agelab.mit.edu/advanced-human-factors-evaluator-automotive-demand-consortium-ahead.

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