A Context-Sensitive Distraction Warning System


VisGuard is the only existing solution that gives a warning to focus on the driving task BEFORE visual distraction by a mobile device use is realized. When the driver engages in activities with the mobile device, VisGuard immediately starts to track the visual demands of the road ahead and mentors the driver to turn eyes back on the road when needed.

The system gives the guidance by taking into account the visual demands based on the upcoming driving situation. This will happen automatically as the system runs in the background in the mobile device monitoring the driving situation.

The VisGuard mobile application runs currently on Android devices [1]. The visual demand algorithm behind it is based on data collected from hundreds of drivers in simulator and real traffic environments. Besides mobile devices, the system can be implemented in any in-vehicle device such as dashboard infotainment or navigation systems.

Presentation on VisGuard at the 4th International Conference on Driver Distraction and Inattention (November 9-11, 2015, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia)

Presentation on VisGuard at the 3rd International Conference on Driver Distraction and Inattention (September 4-6, 2013, Gothenburg, Sweden)



The safety risk of an off-road glance is context-dependent. Brief glances away from the forward roadway for the purpose of scanning the driving environment or vehicle instruments can be safe, if timed appropriately, and may actually decrease near-crash/crash risk. Use of mobile devices like smart phones, navigation systems, fleet management devices, and car multimedia systems while driving may visually distract the driver but in some situations the use of them increase safety, for instance, when using a GPS navigator on unfamiliar roads or when the use of a music application helps to keep the driver alert on a long drive. However, there are specific situational conditions in which engaging in secondary activities can be more dangerous, for example when approaching intersections, zebra crossings, areas of high traffic density, or when driving close to a lead vehicle.

Some drivers are more skilled than others and are able to perform multitasking while driving more efficiently than less skilled. For example an experienced driver can gather and process the visual information required for safe navigation of the vehicle much faster than a novice driver and also anticipates the upcoming demands of driving much more efficiently.

When a diverging glance becomes a visual distraction, depends on the visual demands of the upcoming driving situation, which are further dependent on the skill level of the driver. VisGuard adaptively adjusts the threshold of warnings that can be given immediately in situations of high visual demands or for novice drivers who should not use their mobile devices at all while driving. On the other hand the threshold could be as high as a few seconds in situations of very low visual demands for more skilled drivers.

Existing solutions, such as legislative counter-measures or workload managers, that disable mobile applications while on the move, do not typically gain acceptance from drivers. Our context-sensitive warning system is aiming at high acceptability from the driver population with adaptive mentoring that minimizes false alarms by context-dependency and offers experienced benefits with increased safety margins. The responsibility of safe driving remains on driver’s hands but VisGuard guides to safer multitasking behaviors behind the wheel.

[1] Finnish Patent No. 124068, U.S. and EPO applications pending.