New car technology improves safety, increases distractions

Michael James

As infotainment systems become more complex and carmakers use further technology to improve automotive safety, driver distractions can also increase.

In fact, information and entertainment systems in many new cars can distract drivers for more than 40 seconds, according to a new study by the American Automobile Association (AAA), Foundation For Safety.

The AAA reports removing your eyes from the road for only two seconds doubles the risk of an accident.

Distracted driving may increase as automakers added further infotainment and technology features to new cars.
As automakers add further infotainment and technology features to new cars, driver distrations have increased, according to a new AAA study.

Conducted for AAA by researchers from the University of Utah, the survey included voice-based and touchscreen features and studied the visual and cognitive demands required to operate infotainment systems. Thirty new 2017 vehicles were included in the study.

Participants were tasked with using interactive technologies to make a phone call, send a text message, find a radio station and program the navigation system, all while driving. Navigation proved to be the most time intensive, requiring drivers to take their eyes off the road for an average of 40 seconds.

In that time, a car driving at 25 miles per hour would travel the length of four football fields — essentially driving blind. Though some automakers address this distraction by disabling navigation programming while the car is in motion, nearly half of the models tested allowed it.

The study rated the distractibility level of the infotainment systems from “low demand,” which researchers equated to listening to the radio, to “very high demand,” which they likened to balancing a checkbook while driving.

The infotainment systems in a dozen of the cars studied generated “very high-demand” levels of distraction; 18 others generated levels that were either “high” or “moderate.” None of the cars had systems that registered as “low demand.”

AAA estimates infotainment systems are used by 33 percent of drivers. A recent survey showed that while almost 70 percent of U.S. adults say they want such new technology in their car, less than one-quarter of them are happy with the way it works.

Article Last Updated: April 4, 2018.

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