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Multi-modal demands of a smartphone used to place calls and enter addresses during highway driving relative to two embedded systems

Reimer, Bryan; Mehler, Bruce; Reagan, Ian J.; Kidd, David G.; Dobres, Jonathan
April 2016

There is limited research on trade-offs in demand between manual and voice interfaces of embedded and portable technologies. Mehler et al. identified differences in driving performance, visual engagement and workload between two contrasting embedded vehicle system designs (Chevrolet MyLink and Volvo Sensus). The current study extends this work by comparing these embedded systems with a smartphone (Samsung Galaxy S4). None of the voice interfaces eliminated visual demand. Relative to placing calls manually, both embedded voice interfaces resulted in less eyes-off-road time than the smartphone. Errors were most frequent when calling contacts using the smartphone. The smartphone and MyLink allowed addresses to be entered using compound voice commands resulting in shorter eyes-off-road time compared with the menu-based Sensus but with many more errors. Driving performance and physiological measures indicated increased demand when performing secondary tasks relative to ‘just driving’, but were not significantly different between the smartphone and embedded systems.
Practitioner summary: The findings show that embedded system and portable device voice interfaces place fewer visual demands on the driver than manual interfaces, but they also underscore how differences in system designs can significantly affect not only the demands placed on drivers, but also the successful completion of tasks.