In a new study funded by the Minnesota Department of Transportation, researchers at the University of Minnesota investigated the potential advantages and possible disadvantages of vehicle-to-infrastructure (V2I) in-vehicle messages to communicate to drivers traveling in work zones.
The researchers began by identifying ideal design guidelines for any in-vehicle messaging system. Then, the team conducted a survey to uncover driver attitudes in Minnesota toward work-zone safety, smartphone use, and the potential for receiving messages through in-vehicle technologies such as smartphones.
The survey revealed positive attitudes toward the use of a V2I work-zone messaging system but concern over its distraction potential. The researchers also found that many drivers distrust the accuracy of roadside signs for work zones and were receptive to using an electronic messaging system.
Following the survey, researchers designed the in-vehicle messages and conducted a simulated driving study to test the effectiveness of the system on driving safety. During the simulation, participants drove through two different types of work zones three times, each with different work-zone events and messaging interfaces.
Findings showed that there appeared to be no effect of distraction as long as in-vehicle messages were delivered in a controlled and driving-relevant manner. In fact, after analyzing the simulation data, researchers found that driving performance improved. Drivers using either type of in-vehicle messaging performed better than they did with the roadside warning signs. Furthermore, drivers had better vehicle control and reported significantly less mental workload, better usability, and greater work-zone-event recall.
The study also found that placement of the messaging interface did not appear to be a significant factor for driving performance when the messages contained an audio component. Researchers hope to continue this work by field testing in-vehicle message systems and exploring possible avenues for broad implementation.