Thursday, June 27, 2013

Reducing driver distraction with ICTs

Inappropriate use of information and communication technologies (ICTs), especially mobile phones, is a chief culprit behind driver distraction and road accidents, and with automobile manufacturers scrambling to develop a “connected” driving experience, the ICT and automotive industries are becoming ever more closely entwined.

However, this integration of cars and ICTs need not come at the expense of driver safety, and there are strong grounds on which to argue that ICTs have great potential to enhance rather than diminish vehicle safety systems.

Under the banner of intelligent transport systems (ITS) the automotive and ICT communities are working towards a convergence of automobiles and ICTs that prioritizes drivers’ safety and broad consensus has it that international standards are the tools through which this will be achieved.

Over the past two years, as chairman of the ITU-T Focus Group on Driver Distraction, I have had the pleasure of leading a group tasked with laying the foundations for driver-distraction standardization work in ITU’s Telecommunication Standardization Sector (ITU-T).

Established in February 2011, the Focus Group reached the end of its study period in March 2013 and has been instrumental in raising awareness around ITU-T activity on driver distraction and the scale of this workload, as well as in providing clear direction to ITU-T’s driver-distraction work plan. The group has also been successful in opening lines of communication with key organizations and drawing new expertise into the ITU-T standardization process.

The Focus Group’s final deliverables take the form of five technical reports that describe:

  • use cases and user interface requirements for automotive applications 
  • system capabilities for improving the safety of driver interaction with applications and services (situational awareness management) 
  • approaches that enable external applications to communicate with a vehicle

The reports are freely available here.

The conclusions put forward by the reports are being taken up by the two groups leading ITU-T’s standardization work on driver distraction, Study Group 12 (Performance, QoS and QoE) and Study Group 16 (Multimedia). New related work items calling for external coordination and collaboration may also be addressed by the Collaboration on ITS Communication Standards, a forum working to create an internationally harmonized set of ITS communication standards to enable the deployment of fully interoperable ITS products and services in the global marketplace.

Safe interaction with applications and services
The Focus Group’s work is just the beginning of an international standards effort to help drivers interact safely with applications and services — and not just apps on phones, but apps running in the cloud, in roadside infrastructure systems, and in the car itself, to name just a few locations.

The Focus Group’s Use Cases report details the use cases and user scenarios being targeted by this standards effort, but for now let’s look at Use Case 2, Scenario A (arbitration of external message), which illustrates how ITU-T is working towards a comprehensive framework for managing distraction and workload.

Keeping priorities straight
In this user scenario, a navigation maneuver is given priority over a social media ‘status update’ message. The blue call-out boxes indicate where the ITU-T Recommendations under development can enable safe interaction between the driver and applications. For instance, ITU-T Recommendation G.SAM will define mechanisms for prioritizing navigation, G.V2A will define the communications interface between the app and the driver-vehicle interface (DVI), and P.UIA will recommend characteristics of the auditory social media message.

Remember that the focus here is not on how to implement social media in the car, but rather on how best to manage workload and distraction.

Giving a navigation maneuver priority over a social media status update message

In for the long haul
Speaking from our perspective at QNX Software Systems, a subsidiary of BlackBerry, the work of the Focus Group marks the beginning of a long road ahead. Within ITU-T, QNX will continue to:

  1. Work with the relevant parties to identify solutions to the problem of technology-related driver distraction and workload. These parties include automotive, telecommunications, and consumer electronics organizations; standards development groups; academia; and government agencies.
  2. Determine which aspects of the solution should be standardized, and help drive this standardization.
  3. Align QNX product roadmaps as solutions develop.

Certainly this is a long-term strategy that will take years to realize, factoring in the rigour of ITU-T’s standards process as well as the significant amount of time needed to deploy technologies in vehicles on a meaningful scale.

Join the discussion
A workshop hosted by ITU and UNECE at ITU headquarters in Geneva, 27 June 2013, will address “Intelligent transport systems in emerging markets – drivers for safe and sustainable growth” with a view to analyzing recent advances in ITS with emphasis on improving road safety in developing countries.

This workshop includes a session dedicated to driver distraction in which I will present the outcomes outlined by the Focus Group’s technical reports to spur discussion on the likely course of corresponding ITU-T standardization work.

The workshop is free of charge and open to all interested parties, including non-members of ITU, and online ‘remote participation’ will be available to all those unable to travel to Geneva. Please join us for what will certainly be a richly informative and interactive event!

This post originally appeared on the ITU Blog.

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