A latest development in automotive technology will bring smiles to drivers that favour innovative advances. The EU project AIDE ('Adaptive integrated driver-vehicle interface'), backed with funding totalling EUR 7.3 million, has designed a special dashboard computer to act as a single conduit for currently available devices like PDAs and GPS. The project partners say this computer will make driving safer and more pleasant. The new dashboard interface is the brainchild of researchers and automotive industry experts. Their cooperation has generated a computer that connects and controls the increasing information and vehicle control systems that are finding a niche in our world. With an eye on heightening safety in the automotive industry and advancing intelligent vehicles technology, European researchers have sought to fuse the various systems with the controls and user devices that exist in cars. Until now, there were many concerns about behavioural responses to such technologies including drivers being too dependent on the systems, safety margin compensation, and distraction. 'There is a real risk the driver will become overwhelmed as the number of in-car systems multiply,' ICT Results quoted AIDE dissemination manager Dr Angelos Amditis as saying. 'There are so many potential demands on driver attention from these new systems that they could prove distracting.' Enter AIDE, which was established to put these concerns to rest. Citing the partners, ICT Results said the Adaptive, Integrated Driver-vehicle interface provides a clearinghouse for all of the systems operating in a car and their interaction with the driver. This system has the capacity to sideline non-red flag alerts, while it prioritises and focuses on urgent warnings, all dependent on the driving conditions. For instance, if a driver approaches a difficult junction, cell phone activity will stop. The research team said the interface can be tailor-made for drivers. 'It is possible to personalise the warning, the media, timing and its intensity according to the driver's profile, both explicit and implicit preferences,' Dr Amditis was quoted as saying. The partners carried out field tests, which showed that around 50% of the test subjects were pleased with the system. 'We consulted drivers and experts, and a lot of literature about driver response to safety systems using a user-centred design approach,' Dr Amditis explained. The team noted its surprise about the results, particularly because most drivers find simple safety systems, such as seat belts, annoying. Quantitative models and simulation were also investigated by the project partners. While a perfect quantitative model has yet to emerge, AIDE developed a handbook on Human-Machine Interface (HMI) testing in the automotive industry. 'The project also raised awareness in Europe about the importance of interface issues for road safety, and AIDE has put in-car HMI on the agenda in Europe,' Dr Amditis commented. 'Many of our partners will continue AIDE's work, adapting elements of it to their own cars and trucks, while many of the equipment manufacturers are looking on AIDE-like systems to be implemented in their vehicles,' he added. 'There might be a move towards some standards over time, but in the short term, manufacturers will deploy proprietary implementations.'