From The Ergoweb® Learning Center

Standardized Dashboard Lights May Be Too Distracting

In September, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) thought that requiring automakers to use a standardized system of dashboard icons would be a good idea. After receiving comments on everything ranging from safety, readability, ergonomics and human factors, the NHTSA may be changing its mind.

“We are going to go back to the drawing board,” said Stephen Kratzke, Associate Administrator for Rulemaking at the NHTSA in a recent Washington Post article. And the reason for their change of heart could be credited to ergonomics.

The agency proposed a set of over 160 icons, conforming to what are considered to be internationally recognizable symbols. The new symbols would have been incorporated, sans text, into all new cars over a set period of time. The ultimate goal of the change was to create uniform symbols on dashboards to reduce driver distraction. Every car would be the same, therefore minimizing potential confusion for drivers. However, expert comments submitted to the agency indicated that ample confusion could still exist with the proposed symbols.

Comments concerning a lack of evidence that the symbols would be universally recognizable, that the symbols could add to driver distraction, and even that the symbols could negatively impact safety were received by the agency. And a rather convincing comment came from Stephen L. Young, a senior research scientist with Applied Safety and Ergonomics in Ann Arbor, Michigan, who noted that a test performed by the firm of 15 of the icons showed that nine of the icons tested had no comprehension at all. The icon with the greatest comprehension was the one indicating interior compartment illumination, and even that one only had 25 percent comprehension.

Current standards for vehicle dashboard displays, dating back to 1967, consists of 37 symbols, words and abbreviations.

In response to the comments, the NHTSA said it will review its standardization plans to determine what modifications should be made.

Source: Washington Post