Children watching a video on a car console

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Passenger’s display: Is driver’s distraction the price to pay?

Resource Details

  • Written by

    Ieva Miseviciute

  • Read time

    3 min

Digital technology applications rapidly advance within the automotive industry, offering a range of functions and features for navigation, entertainment, and in-vehicle control for drivers and passengers. These advancements are largely driven by integrating larger and more numerous displays in car interiors. The passenger's display, also known as a co-pilot display, is designed for passengers to enjoy visual and audio entertainment during the ride. However, little is known about how the co-pilot display might affect the driver's workload and driving performance.

This question has now been addressed in a research study by scientists from the
School of Automotive Studies at Tongji University, China. To assess whether the co-pilot's display influences driving behavior and workload, the researchers investigated the following factors:

  • Visual workload was assessed by measuring glance behavior (e.g., total glance duration, number of glances) on the co-pilot's display using Tobii Pro Glasses 3. For the analysis, researchers utilized Tobii Pro Lab software.
  • Cognitive workload was measured in an auditory detection response task. The task required the driver to press a microswitch attached to the steering wheel whenever they heard a beep.
  • Driving performance consisted of measurements of deviations in speed and lane position.

In a simulated driving environment on a three-lane highway, participants engaged with the co-pilot display (with various task variations as controls) and responded to the detection response task.

The results revealed increased cognitive and visual workload and worse driving behavior when participants drove with the co-pilot display active. The drivers showed a higher average glance duration when attending to the co-pilot's screen, compared to control conditions, pointing to an increased visual workload. As the passengers watched video content on the co-pilot display, drivers displayed erratic driving behavior, such as fluctuating speeds and lane deviations. Moreover, the drivers also had increased reaction times in an auditory detection response task, suggesting a higher cognitive load while driving with the co-pilot display active.

This research study shows how drivers’ interaction with the co-pilot display shapes their behavior and safety. It invites refinements in the ongoing development and application of co-pilot displays, emphasizing the need for a balance between entertainment and driving focus.

Cited publication

Ma, J., Li, J., Wang, W., Huang, H., Zhang, X., & Zhao, J. (2024). The impact of co-pilot displays use on driver workload and driving performance exploring the impact of co-pilot display on drivers’ workload and driving performance. Applied Ergonomics, 114, 104138.

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Resource Details

  • Written by

    Ieva Miseviciute

  • Read time

    3 min

    Resource type

    • Scientific publications

    Tagged products

    • Eye trackers

    Tagged solutions

    • Scientific research


  • Tobii employee

    Ieva Miseviciute, Ph.D.


    As a science writer, I get to read peer-reviewed publications and write about the use of eye tracking in scientific research. I love discovering the new ways in which eye tracking advances our understanding of human cognition.

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