Infotainment systems are worse than cannabis or alcohol for driving performance


The effects of infotainment systems on driving performance is comparable to that of alcohol and cannabis, the findings of a new study have revealed.

Assessing the impact of interacting with either Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, TRL in conjunction with road safety charity IAM RoadSmart, found greater demands placed on the driver requiring attentional resources led to a variety of negative behaviours on the road.

The study comprised of two experimental trials with 20 participants using the Android system, with another 20 using Apple’s version. Both groups were tasked with completing three simulated drives on the same test route: a control drive (where they did not interact with any system), a voice enabled drive (where they interacted with the respective system using voice control only) and a touch enabled drive (where they interacted with the respective system using touch control only).

Divided into three sections, the test route involved following another vehicle while accessing music on Spotify and BBC radio; navigating through erratic motorway traffic to a railway station, restaurant and petrol station; and performing a figure of eight loop while reading texts or making a call via the infotainment system.

Compared with the control drive, participants in both trials showed a reduction in average speed, increase in deviation of headway and larger deviation of lane position for most tasks; with the variation more extreme when using touch features as opposed to just voice-activated actions.

Eye gaze measures indicated that participants did not meet the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) criteria for most of the touch-control tasks on both systems, but did when relying on voice control. This was backed up by the participants self-reporting that showed interacting via touch to be more difficult and distracting than voice.

Comparison with previous driver impairment studies showed that the increase in reaction time when interacting with either system using touch was higher than previously measured forms of impairment, including texting and hand-held calls.

The study’s authors conclude, “For both touch and voice control with both systems, reaction times were greater than established benchmarks of the effect of alcohol consumption (at the legal limit) and cannabis use on reaction time when driving.”

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About Author


James joined the Traffic Technology International team in 2017. Previously he was Assistant Editor on an engineering title for several years and has worked for various other trade magazines before that. James is happily married and has a young daughter and son who keep him busy.