Can certain typefaces mitigate driver distraction? The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) AgeLab and the New England University Transportation Center set out to find the answer along with Monotype Imaging Holdings Inc. (Nasdaq: TYPE), a leading global provider of typefaces, technology and expertise for creative applications and consumer devices. Initial results of an exploratory study show that certain type styles can reduce glance time – the time away from watching the road when driving while interacting with in-vehicle displays.
“The study indicates that the right typefaces can make a difference in reducing the amount of time not focused on the road, and therefore, gets us closer to our goal of improving driver safety,” said Bryan Reimer, research scientist at MIT AgeLab and one of the principle researchers of the project. “With digital information and entertainment increasingly available through in-vehicle displays, we know that text in cars is here to stay. Given this reality, text needs to be as easy to read as possible. Your eyes need to get back on the road very quickly for obvious reasons.”
Full results of the exploratory study are available in an MIT AgeLab white paper, in addition to a video that highlights the research and its findings. Portions of the study will be presented by the MIT AgeLab at the Automotive User Interface (AutoUI 2012) conference in Portsmouth, N.H., Oct. 17-19, where Reimer is scheduled to speak.
During the study, drivers interacted with a multi-line menu display designed to model a text-rich automotive human machine interface (HMI). Data, including eye tracking measurements from 82 participants, were collected across two driving simulation experiments. Participants ranged in age from 36-75 and were asked to respond to a series of address, restaurant identification and content search menus displayed using two different typeface designs. Among the men in the first study, a humanist style typeface resulted in a 12.2 percent improvement on glance time as compared to a square grotesque typeface. Consistent with this observation, results from the second experiment, where the extent to which modifications in contrast (decreasing screen brightness) impacts glance behavior were assessed, a 9.1 percent improvement on glance time resulted among men using the humanist typeface, as compared to the square grotesque design. Among women in the first study, glance time between the two typeface designs was virtually equivalent. Women in the second study showed a 3.3 percent improvement on glance time with the humanist style over the square grotesque typeface.