Study Finds Augmented Reality Car Windshields Could be More Dangerous Than Useful

By Gerald Lynch on at

It's a sci-fi driving concept already being tested by the likes of Jaguar and Garmin, but the dangers of using an augmented reality car windshield with heads-up information may actually outweigh its benefits, according to a new study.

Researchers at the University of Toronto found that, rather than simplifying the driving experience, a feed of real-time hazard, road and mapping information beamed directly onto a windshield could actually confuse drivers.

Using a selection of computer-based tests on people's concentration and situational awareness, the team found that added visual information was actually more likely to result in distractedness than accurate decision making, which could lead to accidents.

The University's Department of Psychology professor Ian Spence said that “not only will drivers have to concentrate on what’s happening on the road around them as they’ve always done, they’ll also have to attend to whatever warning pops up on the windshield in front of them.”

The researchers had test subjects reporting on randomly arranged spots displayed on a screen, paying particular attention to the speed and accuracy of their observations. This was then complicated by the random addition of a black square outline which the subjects were also asked to report on. While users could accurately report changes in the spots (missing just one in 15 on average), the second stimulus saw them struggling, missing on average one in every 10 changes as a result.

While it's not a real-world on the road test (thank God, given the results), it does highlight how complications and distractions could hinder a driver's decision making abilities. Spence said that “it would be necessary to distinguish, for example, between warnings of a collision and a recommendation to make a turn,” and that “the two visual tasks interfered with each other and impaired both reaction speed and accuracy.” It seems then that perhaps, when it comes to futuristic transport technologies, giving control over to the robots entirely may be our safest bet. [TechRadar]