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Do drivers understand new instrument panel displays?

Support for NHTSA’s mission to promote vehicle safety

The appearance and function of vehicles’ instrument panels, from the speedometer to the navigation system and mirrors, are changing. Large, visual displays that you can configure are replacing gauges; video images are replacing mirrors. Drivers may soon operate some features using hand gestures or just by glancing at them. 

New ways of interacting with these instrument panels may benefit drivers but may also distract or confuse them. Manufacturers and regulators need an established approach for evaluating the safety issues associated with these advanced displays and controls.

We are developing a research program for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) that uses both analytic and experimental methods to identify and evaluate the key safety issues associated with vehicles’ new displays and controls.

Our research will involve

  • Identifying the primary technologies, products, and applications for these new displays and controls
  • Describing their key features
  • Interviewing automotive industry representatives about the technologies
  • Determining and prioritizing issues related to using them safely
  • Developing methods for objectively evaluating the safety of different functions
  • Developing guidance for the design and use of new display technologies


This research will help assure that drivers can safely use new display and control concepts that are being introduced into passenger vehicles.  

Our work will support NHTSA’s mission to promote vehicle safety.

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