AAA: In-Vehicle Technology Takes One Step Forward, Two Steps Back

DEARBORN (WWJ) – All that new in-vehicle technology is not helping drivers keep their eyes on the road, according to a new AAA Michigan survey.

The infotainment systems, complete with video touch screens and voice demand features, can demand the drivers attention for for more than 40 seconds at a time for tasks like programming, navigation or sending a text message. In that time, a driver can travel the length of four football fields at 25 miles per hour. Previous research finds removing eyes from the road for just two seconds can double the risk for a crash.

With nearly 40 percent of U.S. drivers using infotainment systems while driving, AAA cautions that using these technologies while behind the wheel can have dangerous consequences.

“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,” Dr. David Yang, executive director of the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, said in a statement. “When in-vehicle technology is not properly designed, simple tasks for drivers can become complicated and require more effort from drivers to complete.”

The Study

Researchers 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 and tune the radio or program navigation — all while driving down the road.

Researchers developed an advanced rating scale to measure the visual and cognitive 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.

The study involved a total of 120 drivers ages 21-36 participating 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.

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