Everyone reacts differently in traffic – and in heavy traffic stress levels and behaviours can vary considerably. Some switch lane frequently, others doggedly stick to their position; some leave big and cautious gaps between vehicles, whilst others squeeze up close; some get competitive with the vehicle in the adjacent lane, whilst others stay firmly in first gear and keep the speed low.
There are now numerous in car features available to enhance safety and provide information and entertainment – and all can help to take the strain in heavy traffic. We undertook a piece of research to investigate and observe the real use of such features and to identify across various driver profiles what worked well, what was appreciated, and what could use a re-think. Taking drivers into high stress and heavy traffic situations in five European cities, we were able to evaluate actual driving behaviour and use of newly installed safety, information and entertainment features. Each car was equipped with sensors, cameras, and data logging equipment, including internal and external video recording and car computer management devices.
Situations over the 4.5 hour drive sought out rush hour traffic and traffic jams, motorways, busy congested inner city streets – and interaction with motorbikes, cyclists, bus lanes and pedestrians. In addition to technical data gathered concerning the drive and use of the features, the co-driver (our interviewer) was also able to collect further insights into driver satisfaction, frustration, confidence and so on through interviewing and observation. Each session also concluded with a driver self-completion questionnaire and summary discussion.
The output has been invaluable to understand how best to position and communicate new driving features – and in some cases where to take a step back and re-consider assumptions based on actual driver behaviour and need. The variety of research techniques and methods meant that this was also a highly efficient and innovative approach – enabling us to gather deep and immediately actionable insights into from the 25 respondents in each of the 5 cities.
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