Cars, Calls, and Cognition:
Studies of Cellphone Use While Driving

Driving Simulator

A key area of research in the Adaptive Systems Area explores the lure--and challenges--of multitasking in today's world.  We study how people grapple with multiple tasks and interruptions given our limited human attentional abilities.  Research efforts include work on understanding the costs of multitasking in different settings, from the desktop, to the lecture room, to the car. 

Our research also seeks to develop new methods that assist people by protecting their focus of attention when they need to focus.  In some projects we harness machine learning and reasoning to predict the cost of interrupting and to manage communications and notifications.  Such work includes prototype systems for triaging email and voicemail, deferring messages and communications, and general approaches to alerting

In recent work, we have been exploring safety issues associated with engaging in phone conversations while driving.  We have studied the varying influences on driving safety of "cognitive tasks" that are associated with discussing different kinds of things on the phone.  We have also explored the promise of making available to drivers a road-aware mediator that can provide proactive warnings to both the driver and the person on the other end of a phone call.  The goal of the mediator is to alert drivers to upcoming driving challenges and even put the call on temporary hold when it determines that continuing the conversation may lead to safety challenges.  The work looks at the benefits of such a system as well as preferences of users about having such a system help to mediate calls with the goal of enhancing safety.  


Shamsi T. Iqbal Eric Horvitz Y.C. Ju
Shamsi T. Iqbal         Eric Horvitz Y.C. Ju


Iqbal, S.T., E. Horvitz, Y.C. Ju and E. Mathews. Hang on a Sec! Effects of Proactive Mediation of Phone Conversations while Driving. Proceedings of the ACM Conference on Human Factors for Computing Systems (CHI), 2011, Vancouver, BC, to appear.
Iqbal, S.T., Y.C. Ju and E. Horvitz. Cars, Calls and Cognition: Investigating Driving and Divided Attention. Proceedings of the ACM Conference on Human Factors for Computing Systems (CHI), 2010, Atlanta, GA, pg 1281-1290.