Common Automotive Navigation System Usability Problems and a Standard Test Protocol to Identify Them

Christopher Nowakowski, Paul Green, Omer Tsimhoni

Although there has been considerable research on in-vehicle navigation systems, many safety and usability problems re-occur in system after system, even in systems that have been subjected to some sort of safety or human factors evaluation. This paper describes those problems and a test protocol to identify them.

Common problems were identified from detailed evaluations of four contemporary navigation systems. Those problems, described in laymanšs terms, were found both with destination entry and route guidance. Destination entry problems were associated with (1) the layout and labeling of the control and menus, (2) audio and visual feedback, and (3) order of entry of the destination information. Route guidance problems were most commonly associated with (1) starting guidance and ending, (2) display design and readability, (3) voice guidance and timing, and (4) rerouting.

The test protocol, developed as part of the process of evaluating the four systems, consists of two parts. The first part concentrates on the control layout, destination entry, and other tasks performed while the vehicle is parked. The second part concentrates on the route guidance while the vehicle is in motion. Both parts of the protocol rely on verifying compliance with human factors principles as determined by experts (heuristic evaluation) as well as data from carefully chosen test subjects using the system.

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