Reducing the Cognitive Demand placed on the Driver from the In-Vehicle Information System

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


This research presented in this thesis investigates the demands placed on domestic car drivers from the In-Vehicle Information System (IVIS) and explores how to reduce the way demands are communicated to the driver through a human-centred design approach. The research was undertaken in response to the road safety impact of the rapid increase of in-vehicle technology and the variations in presentation of complex secondary tasks. The aim of this research investigates the demands placed on the driver from the IVIS and identifies how design could be used to reduce the burden experienced by the driver. The research was broken down into three separate studies that each expanded the findings of the previous study. The studies were:

Study 1: A real-world driving study was conducted that used design ethnography and diary studies to record 24 drivers’ glances and interactions with the dashboard and centre console. This study established that the most frequently occurring secondary tasks conducted inside the vehicle were in the multimedia centre.

Study 2: A laboratory-based study with 31 drivers looked at the cognitive demand from the IVIS tasks using a combination of electroencephalography (EEG) and subjective ratings. This study indicated that multimedia interactions were the most demanding on the driver’s cognitive capability.

Study 3: A design creation and validation study was conducted. An established principles framework was developed based on the standards, guidelines and human factors design literature to produce a set of IVIS design principles. The human-centred design process was used to develop a new amalgamated IVIS design as an example of how direct interpretation of the established principles framework could be presented. The amalgamated design utilised affordance, anthropomorphism, representative icons, breadcrumb sequencing, and careful positioning and clustering of features. Additionally, current IVIS were classed into three categories based on their presentation mode. To validate these, a laboratory-based usability assessment was conducted with 29 people on four IVIS designs (one from each IVIS category and the new IVIS design). The usability of the designs was measured using multimedia centre interaction tasks informed by study 1 and study 2. The results showed that the new amalgamated design was more usable overall, and the results enabled the established principles framework to be iterated and validated.

The established principles framework is the major contribution of the thesis and shows optimum design principles that when utilised, indicate a reduction in the drivers’ burden. Further contributions are through establishing the most frequently occurring and cognitively demanding secondary tasks, and the validated presentation modes. The research presented in this thesis could be used to inform legislation on road safety related incidents or used by vehicle manufacturers to optimise IVIS information displays for human performance.
Date of AwardDec 2023
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Brighton
SupervisorDamon Taylor (Supervisor), Ian Colwill (Supervisor), Eddy Elton (Supervisor), Sanaz Fallahkhair (Supervisor), Elias Stipidis (Supervisor) & Periklis Charchalakis (Supervisor)

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