Managing driver distraction was one of the themes being addressed by a workshop at this month’s Geneva Motor Show.
There is some concern that the explosion in on-board information and communication technology (ICT) systems could increase the risk of traffic accidents, as drivers are commonly making calls, operating sat-nav, receiving traffic messages and even texting while at the wheel.
The workshop discussed the opportunity for international standards
and design guidelines for ICT systems and devices, both portable and integrated, to contribute to decreasing driver distraction.
It struck me that one of the aspects of our Skoda Superb long-term test car which I find most useful is its multi-function steering wheel.
Although it takes a few weeks to become fully accustomed to the buttons and roller controls, it is a brilliant tool.
A scroll and few clicks under the thumb give instant, intuitive access to navigation, system, stereo and phone controls without having to lift a hand from the steering wheel.
The handy display in the dash negates the need to keep glancing across to the car’s main screen once the car is under way.
If I want to check the average mpg, I’ve got it in a second. If a turn-off is coming up in my planned route, it counts down the yards.
If my Bluetoothed mobile phone receives a text message, it lets me read it on screen.
Of course, multifunction steering wheel controls and on-board computers are pretty common nowadays, so this is no USP of the Superb.
However, it’s one of those tools that you don’t realise what you’ve been missing until you really get to grips with it.
And besides, it is done with such simplicity by the Volkswagen Group brands.
It is simplicity which will help carmakers combat the issue of driver distraction.
Car buyers have come to expect their new set of wheels to include more complex information and entertainment systems than those found in a typical home 20 years ago.
And despite little progress in driver training, they expect to be able to manage these while still guiding a one-and-a-half tonne machine along in 60mph traffic.
So keeping it simple, but intuitive, like our Skoda, must be vital.