According to new research from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, new vehicle infotainment systems take drivers’ eyes and attention off the road and hands off the wheel for potentially dangerous periods of time.
The latest report is the fifth phase of distraction research from AAA’s Center for Driving Safety and Technology, which was created with the aim of studying the safety implications for how drivers interact with new vehicle technologies. A total of 120 drivers aged 21-36 participated in the study of 30 new 2017 model-year vehicles.
The research found drivers using in-vehicle technologies, such as voice-based and touchscreen features, were visually and mentally distracted for more than 40 seconds when completing tasks like programming navigation or sending a text message. Removing eyes from the road for just two seconds doubles the risk for a crash, according to previous research. With one in three USA adults using infotainment systems while driving, AAA cautions that using these technologies while behind the wheel can have dangerous consequences.
The AAA 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 the new models. Study participants were required to use voice command, touchscreen and other interactive technologies to make a call, send a text message, tune the radio or program navigation, all while driving down the road.
Programming navigation was the most distracting task, taking an average of 40 seconds for drivers to complete. When driving at just 25mph (40km/h), a vehicle can travel the length of four football fields during the time it could take to enter a destination in navigation, all while distracted. None of the 30 vehicle infotainment systems produced low demand, while 23 systems generated high or very high levels of demand on drivers.
“Drivers want technology that is safe and easy to use, but many of the features added to infotainment systems today have resulted in overly complex and sometimes frustrating user experiences for drivers,” said Marshall Doney, AAA’s president and CEO.
“Some of the latest systems on the market now include functions unrelated to the core task of driving like sending text messages, checking social media or surfing the web tasks we have no business doing behind the wheel. Auto makers should aim to reduce distractions by designing systems that are no more visually or mentally demanding than listening to the radio or an audiobook.”