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Report assesses potential of smart glasses as navigation aid

Thursday 17th September 2015

A new report has concluded that while smart glasses could be used safely by drivers for navigation, they are more distracting, less enjoyable and more difficult to use than other options.

The report, ‘Eyes on the Road’, examined what impact smart glasses would have on the driver’s concentration, comparing them to other devices such as satnavs and radios. The study was commissioned by the RAC Foundation and carried out by the Transport Research Laboratory (TRL).

Smart glasses, which have been developed by companies including Google and Sony, are a form of wearable computing technology that places digital information into the sightline of the user.

The research was commissioned before the temporary withdrawal of the Google Glass product, but with similar systems continuing to be developed by multiple manufacturers, the RAC Foundation says it is likely that smart glasses systems will become available, and that users may choose to wear them when driving.

The report concludes that the visual display method typical of smart glasses neither helps nor hinders drivers when used for navigation, in comparison to satnavs.

Testing 16 drivers’ ability to navigate with either verbal instructions, a satnav or smart glasses, the report showed that drivers made fewer incorrect turns using smart glasses that when using a satnav, but many more than when receiving verbal instructions.

Despite the smart glasses producing similar performance levels to satnavs, participants expressed a clear subjective dislike of the smart glasses technology in its current form.

There were also technical problems (including the glasses overheating) with only one participant completing the trial without any form of technical difficulty.

The report concludes that more development work is required to create a compelling argument for the use of smart glasses when driving.

Steve Gooding, director of the RAC Foundation, said: “Navigational assistance for motorists has come a long way from the days when it meant having a road atlas open on the passenger seat.

“Increasingly vehicle manufacturers are designing satellite navigation systems into the car dashboard as standard equipment. But route-finding help is also available through stand-alone satnav devices, smart phones, and potentially other wearable technology.

“Our concern is in understanding what needs to be done to ensure that driver assistance doesn’t become driver distraction.

“This research by the TRL will be of interest to businesses developing products that might be available to drivers in the future. Our aim is that the emphasis should not be on specific products – indeed the smart-glass technology tested here is no longer on the market – but on the framework within which they are developed and used.”

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