Reducing Driver Distraction with Touchpad Physics

TitleReducing Driver Distraction with Touchpad Physics
Publication TypeThesis
Year of Publication2013
AuthorsMullenbach, J.
UniversityNorthwestern University
CityEvanston, IL
Thesis TypeMaster of Mechanical Engineer

Once the domain of purely physical controls such as knobs, levers, buttons, and sliders, the vehicle dash is rapidly transforming into a computer interface. This presents a challenge for drivers, because the physics-based cues which make traditional controls easy to operate with limited visual confirmation are absent on traditional screens. We investigate the addition of programmable physics-based cues to a visual display as a method to reduce eyes-off-road time. A TPaD variable friction touchpad was installed in the Ford VIRTTEX motion driving simulator. Subjects performed target acquisition and slider adjustment tasks under visual, visual/haptic, and haptic feedback conditions. For the two tasks, we found that the visual/haptic condition resulted in 39% and 19% decreases in total eyes-off-road time per task while showing negligible differences in task performance. Subjects showed a clear preference for combined visual and haptic feedback.