Using sound to reduce visual distraction from in-vehicle human–machine interfaces

Larsson, P. and Niemand, M.
Taylor & Francis Group

In this European simulator study, researchers investigated whether adding sound to an in-vehicle user interface reduced glances toward the visual display when browsing the menu. Participants were able to practice on the driving simulator before being asked to complete tasks while driving. They were subsequently asked to rate their driving performance. Results indicated that adding spearcon (speech) sounds to the in-vehicle user interface significantly reduced the total glance time and also the number of glances while retaining task time as compared to the baseline condition. However, in contrast, the use of earcon (musical) sounds to the user interface did not have a distraction-reducing effect.
Overall, participants’ ratings of their driving performance were statistically significantly higher in the spearcon conditions compared to the baseline and earcon conditions. Spearcon sounds seem to efficiently reduce visual distraction, whereas the earcon sounds did not reduce distraction measures or increase subjective driving performance.
Authors suggested that some auditory displays have potential to decrease visual distractions and that future research should further investigate the usability of this feature in addition to driver acceptance of it.

Larsson, P., & Niemand, M. (2015). Using sound to reduce visual distraction from in-vehicle human–machine interfaces. Traffic Injury Prevention, 16(sup1), S25-S30.