AAA: 'Infotainment', Navigation Systems Headed in Wrong Direction
Newest Systems May Distract Drivers More than 40 Seconds
Connecticut Poll: Men More Distracted by In-Vehicle Tech than Women
Some of the latest in-vehicle technologies, like voice or touch-screen navigation, may distract drivers for more than 40 seconds.
This, just one of the disturbing findings of a new study by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety thatmeasured and compared the distraction caused by infotainment systems in 30 new vehicles. While some of the infotainment systems scored better than others, researchers found none to be acceptable and more than two-thirds tested as ‘highly’ distracting. (Here's a fact sheet with KEY FINDINGS)
“With one in three US adults using infotainment systems while driving, this research serves as a disturbing reminder that phones are not the only technology putting us at risk” says Amy Parmenter, spokesperson for AAA in Greater Hartford. “The findings about navigation systems in particular clearly indicate that, when it comes to limiting distractions, we are going in the wrong direction”.
Researchers found programming navigation to be the most distracting task compared to, for instance, using voice or touch screen to make a call or send a text.
According to previous research, removing eyes from the road for just two seconds doubles the risk for a crash.
Distracted Driving in Connecticut
In conjunction with this new research, a AAA poll of drivers across Connecticut found almost 40 percent admit they’ve been distracted by technology while driving and men admit to being distracted by it far more often that women. (48% men, 32% women). The poll also found that men tend to use technology more often for directions (navigation) as compared to women who use technology more often to make a call.
The AAA Foundation Study
AAA has conducted this new research to help automakers and system designers improve the functionality of new infotainment systems and the demand they place on drivers.
“Some in-vehicle technology can create unsafe situations for drivers on the road by increasing the time they spend with their eyes and attention off the road and hands off the wheel,” said Dr. David Yang, executive director of the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety. “When in-vehicle technology is not properly designed, simple tasks for drivers can become complicated and require more effort to complete.”
The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety 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 30 new 2017 vehicles. Study participants were required to use voice command, touch screen 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, the most distracting task, took an average of 40 seconds for drivers to complete.When driving at 25 mph, a driver can travel the length of four football fields during the time it could take to enter a destination in navigation—all while distracted from the important task of driving.
Programming navigation while driving was available in 12 of the 30 vehicle systems tested.
None of the 30 vehicle infotainment systems produced low demand, while 23 systems generated high or very high levels of demand on drivers:
12 systems generated very high demand
11 systems generated high demand
7 systems generated moderate demand
“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.
Frustration resulting from unsatisfactory use of these systems increases cognitive demand and increases the potential for distracted driving.
“AAA has met with interested auto manufacturers and suppliers to discuss our findings. We welcome the opportunity to meet with other interested parties to discuss the report’s recommendations and ways to mitigate driver distraction,” added Doney.
According to a new AAA public opinion survey, nearly 70 percent of U.S. adults say that they want the new technology in their vehicle, but only 24 percent feel that the technology already works perfectly.
“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,” continued Doney. “Automakers should aim to reduce distractions by designing systems that are no more visually or mentally demanding than listening to the radio or an audiobook. And drivers should avoid the temptation to engage with these technologies, especially for non-driving tasks.”
Researchers developed an advanced rating scale to measure the visual (eyes off road) and cognitive (mental) demands and the time it took to complete a task experienced by drivers using each vehicle’s infotainment system. The scale ranged from low to very high levels of demand. A low level of demand equates to listening to the radio or an audiobook, while very high demand is equivalent to trying to balance a checkbook while driving. AAA believes a safe in-vehicle technology system should not exceed a low level of demand.
Researchers found that most infotainment systems tested could easily be made safer by simply following clearly stated federal recommendations such as locking out text messaging, social media and programming navigation while the car is in motion. In 2012, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) released a set of voluntary safety guidelines advising automakers to block access to tasks when vehicles are not parked.
“These are solvable problems. By following NHTSA’s voluntary guidelines to lock out certain features that generate high demand while driving, automakers can significantly reduce distraction,” said Jake Nelson, AAA’s director of Traffic Safety Advocacy & Research. “AAA cautions drivers that just because a technology is available while driving does not mean it is safe or easy to use when behind the wheel. Drivers should only use these technologies for legitimate emergencies or urgent, driving related purposes.”
A total of 120 drivers ages 21-36 participated in the study of 30 new 2017 model-year vehicles. The latest report is the fifth phase of distraction research from AAA’s Center for Driving Safety and Technology. The Center was created in 2013 with the goal of studying the safety implications for how drivers interact with new vehicle technologies when behind the wheel. Visit AAA.com/distraction
to learn more.
About AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety: Established in 1947 by AAA, the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety is a not-for-profit, publicly funded, 501(c)(3) charitable research and educational organization. The AAA Foundation’s mission is to prevent traffic deaths and injuries by conducting research into their causes and by educating the public about strategies to prevent crashes and reduce injuries when they do occur. This research is used to develop educational materials for drivers, pedestrians, bicyclists and other road users. Visit www.AAAFoundation.org .
About AAA: As North America’s largest motoring and leisure travel organization, AAA provides more than 57 million members with travel, insurance, financial and automotive-related services. Since its founding in 1902, the not-for-profit, fully tax-paying AAA has been a leader and advocate for the safety and security of all travelers. Motorists can map a route, identify gas prices, find discounts, book a hotel and access AAA roadside assistance with the AAA Mobile app for iPhone, iPad and Android. Learn more at AAA.com/mobile. Find more information on AAA clubs at AAA.com.
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AAA provides automotive, travel and insurance services to 57 million members nationwide and more than one million members in Connecticut. AAA advocates for the safety and mobility of its members and has been committed to outstanding road service for more than 100 years. The not-for-profit, fully tax-paying member organization works on behalf of motorists, who can now map a route, find local gas prices, discover discounts, book a hotel and track their roadside assistance service with the AAA Mobile app for iPhone, iPad and Android. For more information, visit www.aaa.com.