Development and Evaluation
of a Vehicle Maintenance Monitor

Marie Williams, Eileen Hoekstra, and Paul Green

August, 1993

This report describes pre-competitive research concerning the design of an interface to warn drivers about vehicle malfunctions. Issues examined were: (1) In general, what do drivers understand about the operation and maintenance of the items of interest (e.g., oil, brakes, etc.); (2) How should warnings be structured; and (3) How well are the supporting graphics understood.

In the first experiment, 27 drivers were interviewed at a local licensing office. They were asked questions such as "What is an alternator for?" and "What happens if the brake fluid is too low?" For about half of the items, understanding was marginal at best. Warning messages were designed to overcome the difficulties noted.

In a second experiment, 60 drivers were shown nine prototypical warning messages and selected the words they preferred. (For example, should the brake fluid message use the word low, add, refill, replenish, add some, or another choice?)

Utilizing the preferred wording, 20 drivers were shown a mockup of a warning display in a third experiment. Drivers said what each warning meant and how they would respond. This experiment identified problems with specific warnings along with the vehicle mimic.

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