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    AAA Study Says Infotainment Systems Are Too Distracting

      30 vehicles and their infotainment systems are put under the microscope

    Infotainment systems are one the banes of the automotive world. From confusing interfaces and controls, to issues with crashing and features not working. Add distracting drivers to this list.

    The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety worked together with researchers at the University of Utah to measure the time it took to complete the task, and the visual and mental demand on the driver. 120 drivers were asked to perform various tasks such as operating the stereo and putting in information for navigation system using all input methods - touchscreen, physical controls, and voice commands. They would do this in 30 different vehicles on a two-mile stretch of road going 25 mph.

    The results are sadly not surprising. On average, it took drivers 24 seconds on average to finish many common tasks. Inputting an address in the navigation system could take more than 40 seconds. At 25 mph, that time is more than enough to travel the length of four football fields.

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

    AAA rated the 30 vehicles based on how much demand is put on a driver. None of 30 vehicles scored what AAA considers to be low demand. 11 vehicles scored high while 12 vehicles were rated at very high.

    “Our objective assessment indicates that many of these features are just too distracting to be enabled while the vehicle is in motion. Greater consideration should be given to what [infotainment] features and functions should be available to the driver when the vehicle is in motion rather than to what [infotainment] features and functions could be available to motorists,” the study stated.

    Source: AAA
    Press Release is on Page 2

    New Vehicle Infotainment Systems Create Increased Distractions Behind the Wheel

    • AAA Foundation study reveals in-vehicle technology takes one step forward, two steps back

    WASHINGTON, D.C. (Oct. 5, 2017) – New vehicle infotainment systems take drivers’ eyes and attention off the road and hands off the wheel for potentially dangerous periods of time, according to new research from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety. Drivers using in-vehicle technologies like voice-based and touch screen features were visually and mentally distracted for more than 40 seconds when completing tasks like programming navigation or sending a text message. Removing eyes from the road for just two seconds doubles the risk for a crash, according to previous research. With one in three U.S. adults using infotainment systems while driving, AAA cautions that using these technologies while behind the wheel can have dangerous consequences.

    AAA has conducted this new research to help automakers and system designers improve the functionality of new infotainment systems and the demand they place on drivers.

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

    The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety commissioned researchers from the University of Utah to 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, tune the radio or program navigation, all while driving down the road.

    Programming navigation was the most distracting task, taking an average of 40 seconds for drivers to complete. When driving at 25 mph, a driver can travel the length of four football fields during the time it could take to enter a destination in navigation—all while distracted from the important task of driving. Programming navigation while driving was available in 12 of the 30 vehicle systems tested.

    None of the 30 vehicle infotainment systems produced low demand, while 23 systems generated high or very high levels of demand on drivers:

    • 12 systems generated very high demand
    • 11 systems generated high demand
    • 7 systems generated moderate demand

    Overall Demand by Vehicle




    Very High

    N/A Chevrolet Equinox  LT


    Ford F250 XLT

    Hyundai Santa Fe Sport

    Lincoln MKC Premiere

    Toyota Camry SE

    Toyota Corolla SE

    Toyota Sienna XLE

    Cadillac XT5 Luxury


    Chevrolet Traverse LT

    Dodge Ram 1500

    Ford Fusion Titanium

    Hyundai Sonata Base

    Infiniti Q50 Premium

    Jeep Compass Sport

    Jeep Grand Cherokee Limited

    Kia Sorento LX

    Nissan Maxima SV

    Toyota Rav 4 XLE

    Audi Q7 QPP


    Chrysler 300 C

    Dodge Durango GT

    Ford Mustang GT

    GMC Yukon SLT

    Honda Civic Touring

    Honda Ridgeline RTL-E

    Mazda3 Touring

    Nissan Armada SV

    Subaru Crosstrek Premium

    Tesla Model S

    Volvo XC60 T5 Inscription

    “Drivers want technology that is safe and easy to use, but many of the features added to infotainment systems today have resulted in overly complex and sometimes frustrating user experiences for drivers,” said Marshall Doney, AAA’s president and CEO.

    Frustration resulting from unsatisfactory use of these systems increases cognitive demand and increases the potential for distracted driving.

    “AAA has met with interested auto manufacturers and suppliers to discuss our findings. We welcome the opportunity to meet with other interested parties to discuss the report’s recommendations and ways to mitigate driver distraction,” added Doney.

    According to a new AAA public opinion survey, nearly 70 percent of U.S. adults say that they want the new technology in their vehicle, but only 24 percent feel that the technology already works perfectly.

    “Some of the latest systems on the market now include functions unrelated to the core task of driving like sending text messages, checking social media or surfing the web — tasks we have no business doing behind the wheel,” continued Doney. “Automakers should aim to reduce distractions by designing systems that are no more visually or mentally demanding than listening to the radio or an audiobook. And drivers should avoid the temptation to engage with these technologies, especially for non-driving tasks.”

    Researchers developed an advanced rating scale to measure the visual (eyes off road) and cognitive (mental) 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. In 2012, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) released a set of voluntary safety guidelines advising automakers to block access to tasks when vehicles are not parked.

    “These are solvable problems. By following NHTSA’s voluntary guidelines to lock out certain features that generate high demand while driving, automakers can significantly reduce distraction,” said Jake Nelson, AAA’s director of Traffic Safety Advocacy & Research. “AAA cautions drivers that just because a technology is available while driving does not mean it is safe or easy to use when behind the wheel. Drivers should only use these technologies for legitimate emergencies or urgent, driving related purposes.”

    A total of 120 drivers ages 21-36 participated 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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    Errors seem to be big considering the duplication of systems across multiple auto's and how some scored worse than others. Clearly makes me wonder about how unbiased the testing was?

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    13 hours ago, daves87rs said:

    First thought...Duh!!!!

    I've seen some pretty rough ones.....thinking ones with voice commands would be a good start (in all cars)

    Voice commands while driving may well be the future, but voice commands need to be perfected first.  Also, what if you have your radio/streaming music on and you need Nav again?

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    9 hours ago, riviera74 said:

    Voice commands while driving may well be the future, but voice commands need to be perfected first.  Also, what if you have your radio/streaming music on and you need Nav again?

    "Pause music"

    "Navagtion please""

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    I've been saying that for years. I've been in cars that require scrolling through menus hitting buttons scrolling through more menus hitting more buttons and then selecting an option. The same functions I could do with a simple dial or Knob in older vehicles without taking my eyes off the road. The more buttons dials and knobs lost to a touchscreen, the more dangerous the car becomes in my opinion.

    Edited by Scout
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