Allocation of Driver Attention for Varying In-Vehicle System Modalities

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objective: This paper examines drivers’ allocation of attention using response time to a tactile detection response task (TDRT) while interacting with an in-vehicle information system (IVIS) over time. Background: Longer TDRT response time is associated with higher cognitive workload. However, it is not clear what role is assumed by the human and system in response to varying in-vehicle environments over time. Method: A driving simulator study with 24 participants was conducted with a restaurant selection task of two difficulty levels (easy and hard) presented in three modalities (audio only, visual only, hybrid). A linear mixed-effects model was applied to identify factors that affect TDRT response time. A nonparametric time-series model was also used to explore the visual attention allocation under the hybrid mode over time. Results: The visual-only mode significantly increased participants’ response time compared with the audio-only mode. Females took longer to respond to the TDRT when engaged with an IVIS. The study showed that participants tend to use the visual component more toward the end of the easy tasks, whereas the visual mode was used more at the beginning of the harder tasks. Conclusion: The visual-only mode of the IVIS increased drivers’ cognitive workload when compared with the auditory-only mode. Drivers showed different visual attention allocation during the easy and hard restaurant selection tasks in the hybrid mode. Application: The findings can help guide the design of automotive user interfaces and help manage cognitive workload.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1349-1364
Number of pages16
JournalHuman Factors
Issue number8
StatePublished - Dec 2020


  • cognitive workload
  • detection response task
  • driver distraction
  • driving simulator study
  • secondary task

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Human Factors and Ergonomics
  • Applied Psychology
  • Behavioral Neuroscience


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