Preliminary Examinations of the Time to Read Electronic Maps:
The Effects of Text and Graphic Characteristics

Brooks, A., Lenneman, J., George-Maletta, K., Hunter, D., and Green, P.

April, 1999

This report is the first in a series examining the time to read electronic maps while driving. The 20 subjects that participated, 10 young (ages 18-30) and 10 older (ages 65+), drove the UMTRI Driving Simulator while performing one of three map-reading tasks: (1) identify the street being driven, (2) find the name of a cross street ahead, and (3) locate a particular street. Response times and errors were collected.

Four factors were varied: (1) the number of streets displayed (6, 12, and 24), (2) the street name label size (12 and 18 point), (3) the street name orientation (horizontal, vertical, and stacked), and (4) the street layout of the electronic map (grid and non-grid). In this experiment, every street on the map was labeled with a name.

Overall, Task 1 (On-street) had the lowest mean response time (1.8 seconds) and error rate (7.1%), and Task 3 (Where is?) had the highest mean response time (4.3 seconds) and error rate (14.5%). Age had a large effect on response times, with responses from older subjects being 23% to 35% longer. Beyond 12 labeled streets, error rate and response times greatly increased. Overall, 18 point was the best street name label size, although clutter effects were observed when more than 6 labeled streets were shown. Maps with vertical streets labeled horizontally led to the highest response times and error rates, while vertically labeled streets had the lowest.

Graphical Abstract (.pdf) | UMTRI-98-36 Full Report (.pdf)


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