In-dash infotainment systems are appropriately named, as they do indeed provide both information and entertainment. A driver using the system can, with the touch of a finger or with a voice command, get a map, directions, information about nearby restaurants, weather, driving conditions and more. And with another touch or voice command, summon music, talk shows, podcasts, audiobooks, videos and other dollops of entertainment.
The graphics and sounds of the various features are designed to be compelling in both of the most popular infotainment system platforms: Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. And those captivating sights and sounds are themselves a problem, according to a new study.
The dashboard infotainment systems are slowing drivers’ reaction times, the research commissioned by road safety organization IAM RoadSmart says. The effect of the systems on reaction times, the study says, is that reaction times are increased more than they are when drivers are impaired by alcohol or marijuana. Unfortunately, that increase in reaction times means the likelihood of distracted driving crashes is increased as well.
Researchers found that at highway speeds, the use of the systems increased average vehicle stopping distances more than four car lengths and that drivers took their eyes off of roads and traffic for up to 16 seconds.
That means that at a speed of 75 mph, the vehicle stopping distance is increased by up to 1,738 feet (about one-third of a mile).
Researchers found that reaction times were slowed by the following elements:
- Alcohol: 12 percent
- Cannabis: 21 percent
- Android Auto voice controls: 30 percent
- Apple CarPlay voice controls: 36 percent
- Android Auto touch controls: 53 percent
- Apple CarPlay touch controls: 57 percent
IAM RoadSmart’s policy and research director said the organization is “now calling on industry and government to openly test and approve such systems and develop consistent standards that genuinely help minimize driver distraction.”
That is easier said than done, of course. The infotainment systems are major selling points of new cars in commercials and on showroom floors of Tallahassee car dealers. Carmakers clearly believe that the bigger the system is, the better it improves sales. It is ironic that the systems are often marketed as safety features.
Those who have been harmed in a motor vehicle accident caused by a distracted driver should contact an attorney experienced in personal injury litigation.