Are Vehicle Infotainment Systems Distracting Drivers?

New study rates equipment in 30 2017 cars for distractability
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The latest vehicle infotainment systems deliver more options and capabilities than ever before, including advanced navigation systems, text messaging and social media access. But a new study by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety says that's not entirely good news. The study found that using features like voice-activation and touch screens on some of these systems can cause drivers to be distracted for more than 40 seconds. Removing eyes from the road for just two seconds doubles the risk for a crash, according to previous research. “Some in-vehicle technology can create unsafe situations for drivers on the road by increasing the time they spend with their eyes and attention off the road and hands off the wheel,” said Dr. David Yang, executive director of the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety. “When an in-vehicle technology is not properly designed, simple tasks for drivers can become complicated and require more effort from drivers to complete.”

The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety commissioned researchers from the University of Utah to examine the visual (eyes off road) and cognitive (mental) demand as well as the time it took drivers to complete a task using the infotainment systems in 30 new 2017 vehicles. Study participants were required to use voice command, touch screen and other interactive technologies to make a call, send a text message, tune the radio or program navigation, all while driving down the road. None of the 30 vehicle infotainment systems produced low demand, while 23 systems generated high or very high levels of demand on drivers: 12 systems generated very high demand, 11 systems generated high demand and 7 systems generated moderate demand.

The most difficult task, according to the study, is programming the navigation system This takes an average of 40 seconds for drivers to complete. When driving at 25 mph, a driver can travel the length of four football fields during the time it could take to enter a destination in navigation—all while distracted from the important task of driving. Programming navigation while driving was available in 12 of the 30 vehicle systems tested.

The study concluded that car makers should follow the 2012 guidelines of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) that ask automakers to voluntarily block access to messaging, social media and programming navigation while the car is in motion.

Consumers seemed to share many of those same sentiments. According to a new AAA public opinion survey, nearly 70 percent of U.S. adults say that they want the new technology in their vehicle, but only 24 percent feel that the technology already works perfectly.



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