Jaguar Land Rover is joining a group led by MIT Agelab, DENSO and Touchstone Evaluations in order to determine the demands that drivers deal with behind the wheel and attempt to eliminate or minimize it in future vehicles.

The new 'Advanced Human Factors Evaluator for Automotive Distraction' (AHEAD) consortium will evaluate the demands on driver workload posed by new human machine interface (HMI) technologies to help manufacturers and suppliers design intuitive, convenient and safe future systems.

The consortium brings together leading researchers, vehicle manufacturers and suppliers to take a new look at how the demands of using voice controls, touchscreens and switchgear can be reliably and effectively measured. The goal is to produce a quantifiable, objective evaluation toolkit that can be used across the industry to support new HMI development. This will improve the effectiveness and reliability of data and help manufacturers and electronics suppliers to produce new interfaces that meet all manufacturer, consumer and regulatory requirements.

Jaguar Land Rover's involvement in AHEAD is the latest in a series of strategic partnerships and academic collaborations that reinforce its research and development of advanced engineering and design capabilities. This is also the first time Jaguar Land Rover has collaborated on a project with MIT.

"The opportunities to provide drivers with access to comprehensive and sophisticated information and communication systems while at the wheel continue to increase at an exceptional rate. This will be of crucial importance in our development of the future systems we want to deliver to keep pace with the rapid expansion of vehicle and communications technologies.  While our vision is that our customers will benefit from the most effective, engaging and responsive in-car technologies, we have to be sure that they can be accessed and operated intuitively and safely, with the minimum distraction," said Dr Wolfgang Epple, Jaguar Land Rover's Director of Research and Technology.

The current methods for evaluating HMI technologies mainly use criteria developed before the introduction of modern systems such as voice controls, touchscreens and multi-function controllers. They also don't take into account the impact of the driver moving between different modes of use, such as vision, touch, sound, haptics, gesture and cognition. AHEAD aims to make evaluation demands at an early prototype stage more feasible, which is when design changes can be made more easily and effectively, rather than later in the vehicle development process.

"Physiological measures complement traditional visual attention and performance measures to provide a more complete picture of the interacting demands of modern HMI," said Dr Bryan Reimer, Associate Director of the New England University Transportation Center at MIT and the MIT technical lead for AHEAD.