Driver distraction, telematics design, and workload managers: safety issues and solutions

  • Published: University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute, 2004
  • Authors: P. Green
  • Date Added: 08 Feb 2013
  • Last Update: 08 Feb 2013
  • Format: pdf


To summarise RTI and human performance literature and identify unique aspects of telematics tasks, in order to link back to appropriate workload architecture systems. The workload manager determines if a driver is distracted or overloaded and alters the availability of the telematics device.


Synthesises existing evidence to focus on specific questions of telematics, driver workload and safety.

Key Findings:

  • RTIs associated with telematics use are relatively more likely to occur in benign conditions (i.e. fine weather, undemanding road, light traffic).

  • In-vehicle telematics devices can introduce challenges to driver safety due to the need to look at the device, the act of thinking about the device (which disrupts visual scanning), and the compulsion to complete the telematics related task which often leads to momentary overload.

  • Telematics tasks typically take an order of magnitude longer to complete compared to conventional tasks (operating ventilation, wipers etc).

  • The principle of strict liability means that legal responsibility for safety lies with suppliers / manufacturers, and not only with drivers.

  • Telematics should be designed for the, “ordinary, reasonable person, not drivers of a particular age or with specific technical knowledge”.

  • Workload managers can be classified according to what is measured: the driving situation, driver input, vehicle performance and response, and driver state. Clearly, different forms of measurement require different sensors to enable measurement.

  • Driver gaze direction may be a good workload manager indicator of a distracted driver. However, this is a difficult measurement to take.

  • Better behavioural understanding of how people drive will ultimately improve telematics and workload manager design.


Telematics, workload manager, distraction


A summary of past research which identified areas to focus on to improve management of telematics – distraction based RTIs.