New research suggests that “infotainment” systems found in most modern motor vehicles, such as GPS and other voice or touch command technologies, are causing visual and mental distractions for drivers, increasing the risk of an auto accident.
In a report released by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, researchers indicate that drivers who use infotainment systems are typically distracted for more than 40 seconds when performing certain functions.
Officials from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety commissioned researchers from the University of Utah to observe and examine the visual and cognitive requirements current infotainment systems in vehicles require to operate. Researchers performed the observations to determine how much time is needed to perform any one specific function of the infotainment system, and which functions caused the greatest distraction.
The study included 30 new 2017 vehicles, which were all equipped with infotainment systems, such as GPS, touchscreens, and voice command features. Participants of the study were asked to use voice command, touch screen and other interactive technologies to make a call, send a text message, tune the radio or program the navigation system, while operating the vehicle.
According to the study results, participants were observed to have been visually and mentally distracted for more than 40 seconds when completing the required tasks, in which previous studies have shown drivers removing their eyes from the road for just two seconds doubles the risk for a crash.
As car infotainment systems become more advanced, with ever-evolving technologies to allow drivers to perform functions, such as text messaging without using their handheld device, it is important to ensure the act of performing these hands-free functions do not also distract drivers, experts say.
AAA Mid-Atlantic Manager of Public and Government Affairs, John B. Townshend, stated “a raft of research finds adjusting and inputting a destination into an in-vehicle navigation system while driving can degrade performance and divert the driver’s attention from the immediate task at hand.”
In the United States, 47 states and the District of Columbia have passed laws banning the use of handheld devices. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has found texting while driving to be one of the leading causes of distracted driving automobile crashes resulting in injury and death.
Although automakers have shifted vehicle technologies to help combat the use of handheld devices, some in-vehicle technology can also create unsafe situations for drivers, said Dr. David Yang, Executive Director of the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety.
The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety released the study to the public to show the potential dangers that may still be posed by current infotainment systems being installed in newer vehicles. AAA is encouraging automakers to properly design and test infotainment systems to ensure they are not adding to distraction before releasing them in vehicles, and potentially creating more distraction hazards.