Infotainment systems impair driving ‘worse than alcohol’
Alarming UK study finds that modern in-vehicle systems are dangerously distracting
Features such as Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are the biggest culprits in taking a driver’s attention off the road, a new study reports.
Modern in-vehicle infotainment systems are impairing reaction times behind the wheel even more than alcohol and cannabis use.
These are the alarming findings of a new UK study commissioned by road-safety charity IAM RoadSmart. It reports that instead of the latest touchscreen and voice-control systems improving road safety as they were designed to, exactly the opposite is true.
The study found that reaction times at freeway speeds increased average stopping distances to more than four car lengths. Drivers took their eyes off the road for as long as 16 seconds while driving which is equivalent to a distance of 530m at 120km/h.
Using a vehicle’s touch controls resulted in reaction times that were even worse than texting while driving, which won’t come as much of a surprise to drivers who have had to scroll through a modern infotainment system’s digital labyrinth to change a basic setting.
Commenting on the findings, Neil Greig, policy and research director, IAM RoadSmart, said: “Driver distraction is estimated to be a factor in about a third of all road collisions in Europe each year.
“While previous research indicates that Apple CarPlay and Android Auto perform better than more traditional buttons and controls, the results from this latest study raise some serious concerns about the development and use of the latest in-vehicle infotainment systems. Anything that distracts a driver’s eyes or mind from the road is bad news for road safety.
“We’re now calling on industry and government to openly test and approve such systems and develop consistent standards that genuinely help minimise driver distraction.”
During the study, which was undertaken by TRL on behalf of IAM RoadSmart, the FIA and the Rees Jeffreys Road Fund, drivers completed a series of three drives on the same simulated test route to assess the level of impact of Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. On the first run, drivers did not interact with the system. On subsequent runs, drivers interacted with the system using voice control only and then using touch control only.
Both methods of control were found to significantly distract drivers, however touchscreen control proved the more distracting of the two. While many drivers realised the system was causing a distraction and modified their behaviour by, for example, slowing down, performance was still adversely affected with drivers unable to maintain a constant distance to the vehicle in front, reacting more slowly to sudden occurrences and deviating outside of their lane.
Neil added: “While we would like to see a review of these systems in the future, we’d encourage owners of vehicles fitted with these systems to use them in the safest possible way, including setting everything up before starting a journey.
“Most participants in the study report they use touch rather than voice control in real world driving. As the results show, this is the most distracting, so if there is a need to use the systems while on the go, voice control is a far safer method.”