Risk assessment of telematics applications at drivers' workplaces: principles of the methods

Project No. IFA 1124


completed 04/2016


Mobile devices such as tablet PCs and smartphones have been in use for several years now for telematics applications at drivers' workplaces. In the logistics sector, virtually every vehicle in use on German roads is now affected. These devices give rise not only to technical safety hazards (crash safety, obstruction of visibility, etc.), but also to hazards resulting from distraction. Schedules and routes are communicated by dispatchers to drivers through such devices. Drivers confirm scheduling whilst they are driving – and this is legal. Where the interface design is optimal, this can be tolerated. At international level, the task of changing the channel on the radio serves as the tolerable reference stress for secondary tasks such as these. If the distraction is demonstrably at this level, the application is currently considered acceptable. This is often not the case, however. In response to a consulting request from a member company, the accident insurance institution was seeking expert principles upon which the risk assessment of such workplaces can be based.


Based upon the research and consulting expertise developed in this area by the IFA, the following methods are used. Besides technical safety aspects in the narrow sense, these methods examine the following potential for distraction presented by secondary tasks:

Visual demand of the task:

  • Occlusion method: the task interruptibility is tested in accordance with ISO 16673
  • Eye-tracking: the duration of gaze diversion is examined with reference to the AAM Guidelines

Combined cognitive, visual and motor task demands:

  • LCT: the lane change test (to ISO 26022) is applied. This is a simulation-based method for quantifying the ability to react in a dual-task laboratory setting. This method is used in the automotive industry. Besides a simplified driving task (the primary task), a distraction task (the secondary task) is performed that is geared to the visual, cognitive and motor demands of driving a passenger vehicle.
  • Driving simulation: in a realistic "dual-task setting" with a comprehensive driving task (in contrast to LCT), a secondary task is presented and compared to the direct driving performance (parameters: lane-keeping ability, speed limit violations, etc.).

The combination of methods was essential, since various individual methods only represent and consider sub-aspects. Only when findings are consistent can a secondary task be assessed as being tolerable.


The aim of the study was to determine whether, for the purposes of risk assessment, the telematics application to be tested can be deemed "approximately tolerable" during driving. The following were studied for this purpose: The potential for distraction (in the sense of a testable impairment) presented by the telematics application used. Since the telematics application is highly automated (automatic acceptance of customer data, navigation, etc.) and the majority of operating steps are performed whilst the vehicle is parked, the study was limited to the process of confirming incoming messages transmitted to the driver through the telematics application.

The following methods were employed in the study:

The combined measurement of the cognitive, visual and motor distraction was performed with two different driving simulations (LCT, rFactor1), in each case with two groups of test subjects. In addition, a further test was performed by means of the eye-tracking method to study the visual distraction. The results were determined by means of a reference task (LCT, rFactor1: "adjusting the radio") and by an absolute criterion (eye tracker: limits of the AAM guidelines).

No significant differences in driving performance were observed either with the LCT method or with the rFactor-based method. The eye-tracker method confirmed the findings from the two previous studies: both the total duration of gaze diversion until completion of the task and the mean gaze diversion were substantially below the reference values of 20 and two seconds respectively.

The methods employed in the present study demonstrated that the defined subject of the study (part of the telematics application employed) satisfies the requirements for an application for use during driving insofar as a change of radio channel generally presents greater potential for distraction.

In all methods, the values were consistently below defined limits in both relative and absolute terms. It could therefore be assumed by approximation that use of the application presented a low hazard. The users should however be informed of residual risks and be provided with instructions on use. The company was advised in matters concerning the provision of instruction in consultation with the accident insurance institution, particularly since hazard-free use cannot be assumed in all driving situations and in all conditions, even where secondary tasks have been deemed "tolerable".

In addition, a crash test of the mounting system for the mobile terminal device was performed in an external engineering centre. The conditions of the test and critical findings were discussed jointly. Since the mounting system failed in the crash test, its further use was not recommended. Alternative, tested mounting systems were sought and recommended.

Last Update:

13 Apr 2018


Financed by:
  • Deutsche Gesetzliche Unfallversicherung e. V. (DGUV)
Research institution(s):
  • Institut für Arbeitsschutz der Deutschen Gesetzlichen Unfallversicherung (IFA)
  • Berufsgenossenschaft für Transport und Verkehrswirtschaft (BG Verkehr)


Type of hazard:

work-related health hazards


transport and traffic

Description, key words:

driver's workplace, telematics application, risk assessment