Touchscreen Infotainment Four-Times Worse Than Alcohol

A study measuring the affects of driver distraction suggests using a dashboard touchscreen is up to four times worse than being at the UK’s drink-drive alcohol limit.

The research commissioned by the road-safety charity, IAM RoadSmart in league with the Transport Research Laboratory (TRL), found that reaction times at motorway speeds increased average stopping distances to between four and five car lengths.

Topping the worst form of distraction studied was a driver suffering a 57% delayed reaction time using a Apple CarPlay on a touchscreen versus just 12% delayed reaction time for a driver with 80mg of alcohol per 100ml of blood while using cannabis resulted in a 21% delay.

The study found that drivers took their eyes off the road for as long as 16 seconds while driving, equivalent to a distance of more than 500 meters (1,640 feet) at 70 mph, and using touch control resulted in reaction times that were even worse than texting while driving, which scored delays of 35%.

During the study, which was by TRL, drivers completed a series of three drives on the same simulated test route to assess the level of impact of Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. On the first run, drivers did not interact with the system. On subsequent runs, drivers interacted with the system using voice control only and then using touch control only.

Both methods of control were found to significantly distract drivers, however touchscreen control proved the more distracting of the two. While many drivers realized the system was causing a distraction and modified their behavior by, for example, slowing down, performance was still adversely affected with drivers unable to maintain a constant distance to the vehicle in front, reacting more slowly to sudden occurrences and deviating outside of their lane.

Use of either system via touch control caused drivers to take their eyes off the road for longer than 12 seconds. This does not meet the guidelines set out by the US’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). When using voice control all measures were within NHTSA guidelines
Participants underestimated the time they thought they spent looking away from the road, by as much as five seconds, when engaging with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay via touch control. Commenting on the alarming findings, Neil Greig, policy and research director, IAM RoadSmart, said: “Driver distraction is estimated to be a factor in around a third of all road collisions in Europe each year.

“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.

“We’re now calling on industry and government to openly test and approve such systems and develop consistent standards that genuinely help minimize driver distraction. Most participants in the study report they use touch rather than voice control in real world driving.

“As the results clearly show, this is the most distracting, so if there is a need to use the systems while on the go, voice control is a far safer method. Individuals driving for work are just as at risk as the general public, so we would also encourage employers to review their advice and policies in light of this research.”

— Paul Myles is a seasoned automotive journalist based in London. Follow him on Twitter @Paulmyles_

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *