An audience from motoring, road safety and other sectors came together recently at the RDS in Dublin to hear two expert international speakers talk about how car technology is changing the role of the driver and how increasing levels of technology in the car can have a detrimental effect on drivers’ attention levels.

Associate Professor at the University of Leeds-based Institute for Transport Studies, Dr. Natasha Merat, who specialises in human machine interface (HMI) and driver behaviour highlighted the results of recent studies that have shown that once a driver’s primary attention is diverted by another information input, whether that be a mobile phone or a piece of technology within the car, the risk of an accident increases significantly.

The other keynote speaker was Pim van der Jagt, Managing Director of Ford of Europe’s Research Centre, Aachen, and among his contributions to the Forum he said: “I don’t deny that distractions behind the wheel, however they are caused, either by technology / devices within the car or external influences, can be a serious risk to road safety overall. However, as part of the process of developing new automotive technologies, we are always conscious of how each new development fits into the overall picture of the driver behind the wheel. A sine qua non of all of our research and development activity is that new technology has to contribute to improving the driver experience and consequently, road safety. Any technology that does not pass this test would fall at this first hurdle and would not be developed further for use in cars.”

Gerry Murphy, Chairman, Irish Motoring Writers Association, who moderated the Forum discussion, said: “I think the driver is ultimately responsible for ensuring he or she manages and limits the distraction potential of technology and any other external influences that would divert their attention from the important task at hand”.

Tom Dennigan, of event sponsor Continental Tyres, welcomed the forum as “a valuable event that helps to spread knowledge and promote discussion in relation to motoring and its wider implications for our society.’