Browse Publications Technical Papers 2020-01-1199

Teen Drivers’ Understanding of Instrument Cluster Indicators and Warning Lights from a Gasoline, a Hybrid and an Electric Vehicle 2020-01-1199

In the U.S., the teenage driving population is at the highest risk of being involved in a crash. Teens often demonstrate poor vehicle control skills and poor ability to identify hazards, thus proper understanding of automotive indicators and warnings may be even more critical for this population. This research evaluates teen drivers’, between 15 to 17 years of age, understanding of symbols from vehicles featuring advanced driving assistant systems and multiple powertrain configurations. Teen drivers’ (N=72) understanding of automotive symbols was compared to three other groups with specialized driving experience and technical knowledge: automotive engineering graduate students (N=48), driver rehabilitation specialists (N=16), and performance driving instructors (N=15). Participants matched 42 symbols to their descriptions and then selected the five symbols they considered most important. Teen drivers demonstrated lower performance (Mean=29%) identifying symbols than the other three groups (Mean=60%). For all groups, responses on symbols related to basic vehicle functions and common to all powertrain types had significantly higher scores than symbols related to advanced driving assistant system (ADAS) functions or that are powertrain specific. Overall, the five symbols selected by the participants as most important were related to powertrain and safety warnings. The inclusion of the teenage driver population under 18 years in future symbol comprehension testing studies and the exploration of alternative methods to communicate vehicle information to the driver should be considered by vehicle manufacturers. The result of this study may help automotive professionals when developing new vehicle interfaces to aid inexperienced and experienced drivers.


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