The Car and Truck Fleet and Leasing Management Magazine

Ford Helping to Reduce Driver Distraction Through Research and SYNC

June 06, 2008

DEARBORN, MI – The National Safety Council has designated June 9-13 "Distracted Driving Awareness Week" as part of National Safety Month ( Ford is helping to reduce potential driver distraction through ongoing research and the development of hands-free, voice-activated technologies such as Ford SYNC. The system was developed in part based on research from its state-of-the-art driving simulator used to examine the factors that lead to distraction.

Ford, working with the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, used this research to help develop distraction guidelines for new telematics and infotainment systems.

More than 161,000 SYNC-equipped Ford-Lincoln-Mercury vehicles have sold since the feature's introduction on the 2008 Ford Focus in October 2007. And the option's popularity continues to increase, with monthly sales tripling between December and May.

As part of its effort to reduce risky driving behavior, in 2001, Ford became the first auto manufacturer in North America to invest in a full-motion-based driving simulator, so it could lead the study of driver reaction and behavior in a controlled, safe laboratory setting. The company's driving simulator, Virtual Test Track Experiment (VIRTTEX), led to the development of the Driving Skills for Life (DSFL) program and played a significant role in establishing industry guidelines for the design and operation of telematics devices in cars.

In 2003, Ford published one of its first driver distraction studies based on VIRTTEX research that quantified drivers' failure to detect safety-relevant events while doing visual or manual tasks such as retrieving voicemail on a handheld cell phone. The study revealed much higher levels of distraction among drivers doing such manual and/or visual tasks compared with those using a hands-free, voice-activated interface.

In its work with the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, Ford has taken a substantial role in the development of driver-interface test methods and criteria to address driver focus and interaction with telematics and infotainment systems. Ford helped define and implement design guidelines for the maximum down-angle that visually intensive driver displays should be positioned as well as limits to the visual demand of tasks that might be done while driving.

The Alliance telematics guidelines and Ford's internal occlusion testing methodology (eyes-on/eyes-off) also proved instrumental in the development of Ford SYNC. Basically, any manual cell phone tasks on the SYNC system that can't be completed within two button clicks or within a few quick glances are locked-out when the vehicle is in motion, and can only be operated when the vehicle is parked.


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