How Distracting is Your Car’s Console?
Your phone is not the only tech device that distracts you when you drive. No longer is a car radio, just a radio. With greater technology in our vehicles, there is a greater temptations to play with that technology. Which elements distract you the most?
A member of the FleetMode team began to test drive different vehicles focusing on the infotainment systems, also know as “In-Vehicle Information System – IVIS”. Before the research had concluded, the AAA Foundation did a large research project on this very subject. Their analysis can be found at aaafoundation.org/visual-cognitive-demands-apples-carplay-googles-android-auto-oem-infotainment-systems/
The Key Findings of the AAA study were “Both CarPlay and Android Auto systems were less demanding than built-in (native) infotainment systems for the tasks employed.” and “CarPlay and Android Auto systems generated an overall moderate level of demand, whereas the built-in (native) systems led to overall very high levels of demand.”
It should be noted that the more complex infotainment systems do have safeguards to prevent you from using some of the more demanding aspects while driving. These safeguards are good initial deterrent, however, a determined person can easily find a “work-around” to choose to be distracted in their driving.
The AAA study found that the Android Auto and Apple CarPlay systems can be safer than native car systems for radio programming and dialing. However, navigation through these systems was more distracting than other GPS options.
In our own tests, we determined that knobs were less distracting than touch screens. To choose a radio station by pressing a button required less attention and less visual requirements than accessing a touchscreen to request radio stations and then scrolling through looking for the desired one and then to touch it properly in the visual box.
Also from our testing, we saw that aspects like a photo carousel did not work when the car was in motion, but one could still access and edit the photos when stopped at a red light and the program would still continue after the light turned green. So the “Block” of the app, was only a mild deterrent.
Touchscreens require your eyes, when those eyes should be on the road. Speed dialing of phone numbers through a touchscreen, may require as more eye time than pushing known buttons on an old flip phone. Trying to locate a podcast, or pull up a playlist may first require that you change the “Source” on the touchscreen and then scroll through many options.
Some vehicles also controlled the in-cabin temperatures through a touchscreen. When you need to look at the console to raise the heat, it is more distracting than just pushing a button.
The Dayton newspaper reviewed the AAA study and posted the headline that Phones could be safer than in-car entertainment systems . Their conclusions were that in some instances it is safer to use your cell phone directly than trying to access podcasts, navigation, and the internet through the car’s infotainment system.
Though we at FleetMode did not complete our study, our researcher concluded that these new systems offer great options for passengers, good safeguards to try and stop some distractions, and a good deal of convenience. But in the final analysis, the least distracting vehicle that he drove was a pick-up truck base model with no navigation, no bluetooth, manual knobs for the radio and temperature. He commented, “I was amazed how much I was able to do just by touch and keeping my eyes on the road. My console did not demand my attention or tempt me with wondrous technology. It just did what I needed it to do. And I was more focused on the road than the console.”