Vehicle manufacturers have devoted significant resources to developing safe, autonomous cars and trucks. As technology advances toward self-driving vehicles in the coming decades, consumers are treated to numerous safety features that represent that progression. Technology such as lane-keeping assist, collision detection and blind spot monitoring are common in many vehicles currently in production. Another safety monitoring feature that many drivers see is the addition of the heads-up display or HUD.
Popularized for many years in the fiction of movies and video games, HUD is now a reality. This technology projects a data stream directly into a driver’s line of sight removing any need for him or her to look down to the dashboard for any reason. Unfortunately, in many situations, this can lead to a bombardment of data that can be a distraction for most drivers.
Studies by the University of Toronto found that an HUD-style method of information transfer might not provide the increased margin of safety that developers think it does. Information that is typically displayed on the HUD can include:
- Vehicle speed
- Engine RPM
- Turn-by-turn directions
- Blind spot warnings
- Collision detection
- Road safety information
Some heads-up display packages could even display weather reports, cabin temperature and radio station information. University of Toronto researchers designed two studies that would mimic the effect of watching two sets of data and attempting to avoid errors that would simulate driving mistakes. Researchers found that the two visual tasks interfered with each other, preventing the test subjects from focusing on either one. This shift in focus impaired the subjects’ reaction speed and accuracy during the test. Researchers likened this to having two rival bits of information fighting for control of a driver’s perception.
While a driver’s safety is largely reliant upon the quality of the information presented, it is hindered by the driver’s ability to sort through this information and make safe driving choices. Presenting too much or too-varied information can ultimately have the opposite effect and lead to an unsafe driving environment.