Study: ‘Infotainment’ systems contributing to distracted driving

In-car technology has come so far in just a short time that it seems like we can do almost anything in our cars while we’re driving. According to a new study, however, this “convenient” new technology comes with the increased risk of distracted driving.

The study, conducted by AAA, examined the amount of time it takes drivers to perform tasks using new voice, touch screen and other new technologies. These tasks include features that auto makers like to highlight like sending text messages, programming navigation and accessing social media.

Systems take too long to complete tasks

Out of 30 model year 2017 vehicles examined, 12 of their “infotainment” systems were deemed “high demand,” which means it required a great deal of drivers’ mental and visual energies to complete tasks. This means time not focusing on driving.

The study found that no systems fell to the level of “low demand,” which is equal to the amount of visual and mental demand it takes to listen to the radio while driving. Seven systems generated “moderate demand,” while 11 generated “high demand.”

The systems generating very high demand are in cars like:

  • Chrysler 300 C
  • Dodge Durango GT
  • GMC Yukon SLT
  • Honda Civic Touring
  • Honda Ridgeline RTL-E

All it takes is a few seconds

The study found that it took users 40 seconds to program directions using a vehicle’s built-in navigation system. However, looking away from the road for only two seconds immediately doubles your risk of an accident.

Researchers also found that tasks requiring voice commands, like texting and dialing a call, took significantly longer than touch-based tasks. This mental demand makes up for the low visual demand, meaning the behavior is still quite risky.

AAA recommends that, even with the prevalence of these new systems, drivers should still:

  • Program navigation while the car is not in motion
  • Not send texts while driving
  • Keep their hands on the wheel and eyes on the road

We have written extensively about distracted driving on this blog, with most of it focused on the dangers of paying more attention to your cell phone than the road. However, the increase in these “infotainment” systems could also mean more accidents caused by distracted driving.

You should not assume that automakers have tested whether these systems are completely safe for drivers to use while the vehicle is in motion.