Gadgets behind the wheel are a major cause of distraction but Finnish researchers have now demonstrated that with smart software, smartwatches could provide useful assistance in complex traffic situations.
The team from the VTT Technical Research Centre has developed a package of smartwatch applications combining speech recognition and social communication tools to display and share traffic information in a smart and non-distracting way.
In recent tests, users in Finland’s capital Helsinki agreed the smartwatch-based ‘Park&Ride’ app was more useful than mobile phone navigation.
Allowing drivers to learn whether a train is approaching at a level crossing or to send alerts to other drivers in the vicinity by simply dictating messages, the smartwatches can be activated more quickly than a mobile phone, the researchers concluded. To save the driver from repeatedly having to check the device when nothing is happening, the app can notify the user of important events through a vibration alert.
The smartwatch’s comparatively small screen requires all information shared via the system to be concise and precise, reducing the amount of time needed to read the alert.
The engineers think logistics firms could soon test the technology as it would allow professional drivers to conveniently receive and send notifications of orders and deliveries.
Tested on the Android Wear platform, the software can also be programmed to understand other languages.
The alerts are not delivered directly into the watches but first into a smartphone and then via a Bluetooth connection into the watch. With currently available gadgets, the watch with the application can run for up to a day before the device runs out of power.
The application can also direct drivers to convenient parking locations or suggest a public transport alternative in case of sudden congestion.