Audi have carried out research to evaluate the potential for distraction by animated light displays.
41 test subjects were involved, and a situation was constructed with several traffic participants and an animated-light vehicle parked so as to be conspicuously within the test subjects’ view.
91% of the test subjects stated they felt little or no distraction or impairment from the light display on the parked car. 29% noticed something conspicuous about the test vehicle. 22% indicated they’d noticed the car’s lights flashing as its central locking system was operating. Only 7%—three of the 41 participants—noticed the animations in addition to their traffic monitoring. Of these, two said they didn’t feel disturbed at all by the animations while the third found it only very slightly distracting. Nobody said the distraction or impairment was “neutral”, “little bit” or “strong”.
The Audi researchers take this to mean there is no connection between annoyance, distraction, or impairment with welcome/farewell animations of a vehicle’s front or rear lighting, though a firm conclusion about safety would need more footing than the subjective opinions of a small number of people asked if they were annoyed by one particular car in a staged static observation.
In today’s vehicle lamps, more than 70 LEDs can be used for one function. Since 2017, new “Leaving Home” and “Coming Home” functions have involved animated procession of illumination across the multiple LEDs. Several Audi models, e-tron, TTRS, Q8, Q7, A8, A7, A6, A5, A4, A3, with this function have been available over the past few years, with animations differing in detail depending on the design and configuration of the front and rear lights.
Purpose of study
When locking or unlocking the car, in addition to the standard double flash of the turn signals, the DRL and rear lights are activated for two to three seconds. Since these light displays are visible to any onlooker, questions arise of potential distraction, impairment, or nuisance.
Impairment, annoyance, or disturbance seemed to the Audi team to be difficult to quantify with physically measurable parameters, so they decided to use a survey method.
When choosing the location, they looked for a site with active and diverse road users, activities and traffic regulations. The situation was selected and configured to include circulating traffic with cars, trucks, buses, pedestrians, and cyclists; traffic lights and pedestrian crossings, parking cars, and visible light animation on a parked vehicle. The market place of the municipality of Kösching in the Eichstätt district was chosen as a suitable location, meeting all relevant criteria.
The animation display vehicle was parked in the test subjects’ field of view, as shown schematically in figures below and photographed in figures next. Special care was taken to ensure that the test subjects had a clear view towards the animation.
The vehicle with animations was positioned within the parking bay in such a way that it was as well visible as possible. This parking position differed significantly from that of the neighbouring vehicles, and the Audi team feels that in itself would attract greater attention.
The observation situation was chosen so that the traffic light was about 25 m from the observation site, and the vehicle with animations was about 12.5 m from the observation site. Since the test subjects were supposed to observe the entire scene, the perception angle fluctuated between 20° and 45°, depending on the observation direction of the test subject.
The weather situation was about half sunny, half rain. Visitors and passersby were approached, asked to participate, and positioned on the street for a study, then asked to observe the traffic situation and the road users for one minute.
During this period, three animations were carried out for rear lights and DRL.Then the subjects were given a questionnaire about age group, experience, and the evaluation of the situation.
An Audi e-tron was used as test vehicle. The serial standard animation running when the vehicle is unlocked/locked was used.
A total of 41 people, passersby and visitors to the farmers’ market in Kösching participated in the study.The selection of the test subjects from the market visitors resulted in a wide spread of age and other classifications such as driving performance and pedestrian activity. The average age was 44 years. In general, men were more willing than women to participate.
Data analysis: Traffic
After the observation phase, the test subjects were asked about their individual assessments of the observed traffic situation. To do this, they were asked to assess the complexity of the situation.
The analysis of the information on traffic density and complexity shows that the perceived complexity of the situation with pedestrian crossing, traffic lights, and flowing traffic was rated as medium to high. The perceived traffic density was rated as “rather high” or “high”.
Data Analysis: Distraction
As part of the survey, the test subjects were explicitly asked, among other questions, whether they were impaired or distracted in any way by parked cars.
As shown in figure above, 91% stated “not at all” or “little”. 7% answered “neutral”.
The only participant who felt “severely” disturbed later said he generally disapproves of any parked vehicle in the town centre. Analysis of male vs female responses showed no significant difference.
Data analysis: Conspicuity
The test subjects were in the direct field of vision of the test vehicle, in which the rear or front animation was activated three times during the observation job.
In the further course of the survey, the test subjects were explicitly asked whether they noticed anything about parked traffic. If the answer was positive, the exact cause was asked.
Out of the 41 participants, 12 (29%) recognised something about parking cars. Of these, nine participants (22%) noticed the indicators lights that activated the opening flashing when the vehicle was opened, before the animation started. This flashing when the central locks are opened is present in a large part of today’s vehicle fleets. Three of the test subjects (7%) mentioned the car’s animation even when they were explicitly asked about light.
Detailed analysis: Animation
A detailed analysis was carried out to determine whether the three participants who noticed the animations had felt disturbed or impaired in the previously given assessment; none of them had previously stated that they had been impaired or distracted.
The Audi team found that of the 41 participants, 91% stated that they felt little or no distraction or impairment from parked cars during their observation. 29% of the participants noticed something conspicuous about the test vehicle. 22% indicated the opening flashing of the central locking system as an observation. 7% (three people) noticed the animations in addition to their traffic monitoring, of whom two people did not feel disturbed and one person felt a little disturbed by the parked vehicles. 0% was the result for “neutral”, “something” or “strong”.
From this, the Audi team conclude “Animations were never found to be disturbing in the study carried out. This indicates that there is no connection between annoyance, distraction or disturbance with animations (coming home / leaving home) by front or rear lighting.”
The second step of the study should be a dynamic survey with drivers as subjects.