Evaluating the impact of Head-Up Display complexity on peripheral detection performance: a driving simulator study

  • Published: Advances in Transportation Studies, 28, 2012
  • Authors: Burnett, G. E., & Donkor, R. A.
  • Date Added: 28 Mar 2015
  • Last Update: 28 Mar 2015
  • Format: html


An experiment was conducted in a fixed-based simulator to measure the effects of HUD information complexity on driver behavior and performance.


Eighteen experienced drivers were requested to follow a lead vehicle along a motorway and perform a range of secondary tasks using a HUD (e.g. what is the current vehicle speed). These tasks varied in complexity, based primarily on the number of HUD symbols to search through. In addition, participants were also asked to respond to Peripheral Detection Tasks (PDTs) using steering wheel controls. At times, these PDTs would occur simultaneously with HUD presentation.

Key Findings:

  • Results showed there was a significant increase in PDT response times and reduction in PDT response accuracy as the number of symbols on the HUDs increased.

  • The clearest negative change arose when progressing from four to seven symbols on the HUD. Moreover, lane-keeping ability significantly deteriorated with increasing HUD complexity.

  • Based on these results, it is recommended that HUDs should ideally have no more than four distinct symbols, but may include five or six symbols depending on other design factors.