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October 2021

Use of auditory icons as emergency warnings: evaluation within a vehicle collision avoidance application

Journal/Book: Ergonomics. 1999; 42: One Gunpowder Square, London EC4a 3de, England. Taylor & Francis Ltd. 1233-1248.

Abstract: In the context of emergency warnings, auditory icons, which convey information about system events by analogy with everyday events, have the potential to be understood more quickly and easily than abstract sounds. To test this proposal, an experiment was carried out to evaluate the use of auditory icons for an in-vehicle collision avoidance application. Two icons, the sounds of a car horn and of skidding tyres, were compared with two conventional warnings, a simple tone and a voice saying 'ahead'. Participants sat ill an experimental vehicle with a road scene projected ahead, and they were required to brake in response to on-screen collision situations and their accompanying warning sounds. The auditory icons produced significantly faster reaction times than the conventional warnings, but suffered from more inappropriate responses, where drivers reacted with a brake press to a non-collision situation. The findings are explained relative to the perceived urgency and inherent meaning of each sound. It is argued that optimal warnings could be achieved by adjusting certain sound attributes of auditory icons, as part of a structured, user-centred design and evaluation procedure.

Note: Article Graham R, Loughborough Univ Technol, Husat Res Inst, Elms, Elms Grove, Loughborough LE11 1RG, Leics, ENGLAND

Keyword(s): auditory warnings; collision-warning systems; warning design; Intelligent Transport Systems (ITS); alarms; PERCEIVED URGENCY; DESIGN; PARAMETERS; SIGNALS


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