Touchscreen Human-Machine Interfaces (HMIs) are a well-established and popular choice to provide the primary control interface between driver and vehicle, yet inherently demand some visual attention. Employing a secondary device with the touchscreen may reduce the demand but there is some debate about which device is most suitable, with current manufacturers favouring different solutions and applying these internationally. We present an empirical driving simulator study, conducted in the UK and China, in which 48 participants undertook typical in-vehicle tasks utilising either a touchscreen, rotary-controller, steering-wheel-controls or touchpad. In both the UK and China, the touchscreen was the most preferred/least demanding to use, and the touchpad least preferred/most demanding, whereas the rotary-controller was generally favoured by UK drivers and steering-wheel-controls were more popular in China. Chinese drivers were more excited by the novelty of the technology, and spent more time attending to the devices while driving, leading to an increase in off-road glance time and a corresponding detriment to vehicle control. Even so, Chinese drivers rated devices as easier-to-use while driving, and felt that they interfered less with their driving performance, compared to their UK counterparts. Results suggest that the most effective solution (to maximise performance/acceptance, while minimising visual demand) is to maintain the touchscreen as the primary control interface (e.g. for top-level tasks), and supplement this with a secondary device that is only enabled for certain actions; moreover, different devices may be employed in different cultural markets. Further work is required to explore these recommendations in greater depth (e.g. during extended or real-world testing), and to validate the findings and approach in other cultural contexts.
Large, D., Burnett, G., Crundall, E., Lawson, G., Skrypchuk, L., & Mouzakitis, A. (2019). Evaluating secondary input devices to support an automotive touchscreen HMI: a cross-cultural simulator study conducted in the UK and China. Applied Ergonomics, 78, 184-196. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.apergo.2019.03.005