New 'infotainment' tech in vehicles increases distracted driving risk

BUSINESS New cars are more distracting than ever 5 Oct 2017 5:30pm 4 minutes to read Distractions in new cars are a problem

The vehicle-integrated systems "are created to be used in the driving environment and require driver attention that is comparable to tuning the radio or adjusting climate controls, which have always been considered baseline acceptable behaviors while driving", said Wade Newton, a spokesman for the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers.

Infotainment technology automakers are cramming into the dashboard of new vehicles is making drivers take their eyes off the road and hands off the wheel for dangerously long periods of time, a study being released by AAA on October 5 says.

The foundation commissioned researchers from the University of Utah to examine the visual and cognitive demand as well as the time it took drivers to complete a task using the infotainment systems in 30 new 2017 vehicles. AAA says removing your eyes from the road for just two seconds can double the risk of a crash.

AAA Mid-Atlantic says Delaware State Police reported nearly 6,100 crashes past year in which driver inattention, distraction, or fatigue was a contributing factor.

As cars evolve and technology becomes more advanced, entertainment consoles are becoming increasingly complex. A new study now shows that vehicles themselves can be a distraction. Past studies also identified problems, but Strayer said the "explosion of technology" has made things worse.

Some vehicles now have as many as 50 multi-functional buttons on the steering wheel and dashboard.

Members of the auto industry, who strongly discourage texting and driving, was critical of the new research and methods.

The study found drivers using voice-based and touch screen features were distracted for more than 40 seconds when completing tasks such sending a text or programming navigation.

"Drivers should avoid using hand held devices", the Association of Global Automakers told ABC in a statement, "but rather use in-vehicle systems".

"The surprise here is that these are technologies built and marketed as making us safe and less distracted behind the wheel", notes Jake Nelson, AAA's Director of Traffic Safety and Research.

Of the 30 vehicle systems AAA studied, 23 required high or very high demand on drivers to operate.