Eyes on the road

About this project

This project examines the potential for both established and emerging technology to assist drivers but also explores the extent to which the technology itself can become a distraction.

Project background

In an increasingly connected world, each new technology that comes to market has the potential to influence driving behaviour in ways that are difficult to anticipate. ‘Smart glasses’ are wearable smart devices worn on the head which display visual information in or near the eye line which have the potential to reduce driver distraction compared to traditional satnav devices, due to the voice control inputs and visual display near the forward visual field. However, the display of visual information may also be presented in a more compelling manner, leading to increased distraction, or the hardware itself may create a new blind spot resulting in a failure to perceive hazards.

Project aims & objectives

The study was carried out in two parts: A literature review followed by an on-road study. The aim of the project was to assess the extent to which navigation instructions received through the smart glasses caused a distraction to drivers, and to compare this to verbal directions and a smartphone based satnav.

The approach taken in the study used a sample of 16 drivers each of whom drove under the three separate navigation scenarios. Two observers, one of whom was an approved driving instructor (ADI), recorded any errors made by the drivers using an adaptation of the Viennese Driving Test (VDT).

The evidence from the literature review suggested that smart glasses are likely to be a distraction to drivers but possibly less so than other in-vehicle information systems.

The results of the on road study found that the visual distraction caused by smart glasses does not reduce driver performance compared to verbal navigation or use of a satnav. However, the drivers in the study expressed a clear preference for verbal instructions, followed by satnav with smart glasses being the least preferred method of navigation.

Project timescales

The project completed in September 2015 and is available here.

Project partners

This project was delivered by Transport Research Laboratory and was funded by the RAC Foundation and the FIA via their Road Safety Grant Programme.

For more information

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Updated: 24 Oct 2018