A new study commissioned by IAM RoadSmart found that reaction times at highway speeds are greatly impaired by in-vehicle infotainment systems, increasing stopping distances between four and five car lengths.
The study, which you can find here, also found that drivers took their eyes off the road for as long as 16 seconds while using the infotainment system, equivalent to a distance of more than 500 meters (547 yards) at 70 mph (112 km/h).
In other words, messing around with Apple CarPlay or Android Auto while driving is technically even more dangerous than texting, which is alarming to say the least.
“Driver distraction is estimated to be a factor in around a third of all road collisions in Europe each year,” said IAM RoadSmart research director Neil Greig. “While previous research indicates that Apple CarPlay and Android Auto perform better than more traditional buttons and controls, the results from this latest study raise some serious concerns about the development and use of the latest in-vehicle infotainment systems. Anything that distracts a driver’s eyes or mind from the road is bad news for road safety.”
During the study, which was undertaken by TRL (Transport Research Labratory), drivers were made to complete a series of three drives on the same simulated test route in order to assess the impact of using Android Auto or Apple CarPlay while on the move. Initially, drivers didn’t interact with the systems at all, however on subsequent runs, they began using the voice control and touch functions.
Both methods were found to significantly distract drivers, although touch control was by far more dangerous. For example, reaction times were calculated to be more than 50% slower when the driver engaged with either of the two systems using his or her fingers.
Specifically, reaction time to a stimulus on the road ahead was slower when selecting music through Spotify than if the driver would have been texting while driving (based on previous studies). Also, using either system via touch caused drivers to take their eyes off the road for longer than 12 seconds, with participants underestimated that time by as much as five seconds. This means that you lose focus significantly and don’t even realize it.
In a nutshell, if you need to interact with your infotainment system while driving, do it via voice control, not touch – although ideally it would be better for you to set up everything you need from the infotainment system before you drive off.