On-the-Move and in Your Car: An Overview of HCI Issues for In-Car Computing

On-the-Move and in Your Car: An Overview of HCI Issues for In-Car Computing

G.E. Burnett (University of Nottingham, UK)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60960-499-8.ch004
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The introduction of computing and communications technologies within cars raises a range of novel human-computer interaction (HCI) issues. In particular, it is critical to understand how user-interfaces within cars can best be designed to account for the severe physical, perceptual and cognitive constraints placed on users by the driving context. This article introduces the driving situation and explains the range of computing systems being introduced within cars and their associated user-interfaces. The overall human-focused factors that designers must consider for this technology are raised. Furthermore, the range of methods (e.g. use of simulators, instrumented vehicles) available to designers of in-car user-interfaces are compared and contrasted. Specific guidance for one key system, vehicle navigation, is provided in a case study discussion. To conclude, overall trends in the development of in-car user-interfaces are discussed and the research challenges are raised.
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The motor car is an integral part of modern society. These self-propelled driver-guided vehicles transport millions of people every day for a multitude of different purposes, e.g. as part of work, for visiting friends and family, or for leisure activities. Likewise, computers are essential to many peoples’ regular lives. It is only relatively recently that these two products have begun to merge, as computing-related technology is increasingly implemented within road-going vehicles. The functions of an in-car computing system can be broad, supporting tasks as diverse as navigation, lane keeping, collision avoidance and parking. Ultimately, by implementing such systems car manufacturers aim to improve the safety, efficiency and comfort/entertainment of the driving experience (Bishop, 2005)

Designing the user-interface for in-car computing systems raises many novel challenges, quite unlike those traditionally associated with interface design. For instance, in many situations, the use of an in-car system is secondary to the complex and already demanding primary task of safely controlling a vehicle, whilst simultaneously maintaining an awareness of hazards, largely using the visual sense. Consequently, the level of workload (physical, visual and mental) when using displays and controls becomes a critical safety-related factor. As a further example, in-car computing systems have to be used by a driver (and possible also, a passenger) who is sat in a constrained posture and is unlikely to be able to undertake a two handed operation. Therefore, the design (location, type, size, etc.) of input devices has to be carefully considered, accounting in particular for comfort, as well as safety, requirements.

This article aims primarily to provide the reader with an overall awareness of novel in-car computing systems and the key HCI design and evaluation issues. The focus is on the user-interface, that is, “the means by which the system reveals itself to the users and behaves in relation to the users’ needs” (Hackos and Redish, 1998, p.5). Topics of relevance to both researchers and practitioners are raised throughout. Given the complexity of the driving task and the wide range of computing systems of relevance, the article principally provides breadth in its consideration of the subject. Nevertheless, some depth is explored in a case study investigation on the design and evaluation of user-interfaces for vehicle navigation systems.

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