Can the typeface used in a car dashboard reduce the amount of time a driver takes to read it? A new collaborative study between MIT’s AgeLab and Monotype is researching that very question and opening the door to new opportunities in user interface research in cars.
Among the findings, the research determined that something as simple as the choice of typeface (humanist vs. grotesque) could reduce the amount of ‘driver distraction’ significantly:
In both studies, the humanist font significantly reduced the amount of time participants glanced away from the road. It’s an extremely subtle change that could have far-reaching effects: Reducing glance time by just 10.6 percent represents 50 feet of highway travel, which could be the difference between a rear-end collision and a close call.
Even more interesting, however, is the surprising data indicating that different typefaces may affect the glance times in males, but not necessarily in females.
While the article only mentions the use of Eurostile (grotesque) and Frutiger (humanist) typefaces, I would be curious to know how other data points may affect legibility as well (i.e. uppercase vs. lowercase, amount of tracking and leading, sans serif vs. serif). It is also important to note the call for car manufacturers and regulatory agencies to “use science to inform their designs” and increase our general understanding of causes for distractions while driving.