Automotive

Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are worse for your driving than texting

Apple CarPlay and Android Auto...
Users can control CarPlay functions via touch interface or voice commands. Neither are good for driving performance according to a new study
Users can control CarPlay functions via touch interface or voice commands. Neither are good for driving performance according to a new study
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Users can control CarPlay functions via touch interface or voice commands. Neither are good for driving performance according to a new study
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Users can control CarPlay functions via touch interface or voice commands. Neither are good for driving performance according to a new study

Apple CarPlay or Android Auto touchscreens in your car negatively impacts driving performance more than if you're texting, high on cannabis or sitting at the UK's legal blood alcohol threshold of 0.08 percent, says a new study measuring a range of driver behavior.

Commissioned by IAM RoadSmart, the UK's largest road safety charity, the study placed 20 Apple Carplay users and 20 Android Auto users in a simulator, and had them drive a standard test route three times. The route was broken up into three sections, including car following, erratic motorway traffic, and a figure-eight loop. The first time, they drove it with no infotainment systems on as a control. The second, they were asked to perform music, radio, navigation, text and phone call tasks using voice interactions. The third, they were asked to do the same tasks using touch control.

Subjects were measured on four aspects of driving performance: maintaining a speed, lane position holding, eye gaze behavior and self-reported performance, as well as their reaction time to external non-driving stimuli, which tasked drivers with flashing their high beams when a red bar appeared on the screen.

The charity found a lot to be concerned about – which is perhaps not unsurprising for a group assembled out of pure, distilled concern, but nonetheless, here are a few of the findings.

Unsurprisingly, driver performance on all measures dropped significantly when using the touch screens. Reaction times in particular were about 53-57 percent worse than control times, where driving at the blood alcohol limit of 0.08 percent only increased this metric by 12 percent and smoking cannabis saw a 21-percent increase in reaction times. The result would be 4-5 extra car lengths of stopping distance at highway speeds.

More surprisingly, using voice commands didn't make things that much better, increasing reaction times by 30-36 percent, where texting while driving resulted in a 35-percent increase. It appears talking to Siri is about as bad as texting.

Drivers found it harder to maintain a constant speed and a constant distance behind the car in front or their position in a lane while using touch screens. Notably, lane position would deviate by about half a meter (1.7 ft) when using touch features.

There's more in the full study, but by now you get the picture: touch-activated infotainment systems appear to be significantly worse than texting while driving, which itself is significantly worse than cannabis or threshold-level drink driving.

IAM RoadSmart hopes the study might lead to tighter government testing on what's legal to fit in consumer cars.

“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," said policy and research director Neil Greig.

While it's unclear whether these devices are becoming responsible for a greater share of road trauma incidents, it doesn't take a genius to correlate the ever-growing touch interfaces in our cars with driver distraction.

Source: IAM RoadSmart

13 comments
piperTom
So the texting, the (barely) legal alcohol, the cannabis, and these programs have about the same impact? !! That makes me think that the dangers of the first three have been overblown. And of course, they don't compare driving-while-sleepy; the sleepy thing is too hard the measure. They SHOULD be measuring "reckless driving", but that is also hard to measure.
Frank Thorley
Did you run the test with Tesla Model w/HW3 upgrade running on Autopilot? You should.
guzmanchinky
So here's the thing they are missing. When I check a message it's at a stoplight. When a drunk drives they are drunk during all phases of driving. These studies do not compare apples to apples, but they make shocking headlines, which is all the world seems to care about anymore...
DaveWesely
Knobs are far better than touch screens while driving. I understand the fascination with touch screens - ease of upgrade and configuration. But trying to use one while driving is dangerous, even for simple things like adjusting volume. I would think a heads up display with steering wheel controls would be much safer. Just eliminating the "reach, position finger, and touch" requirement would be a huge improvement. Liability wise, it's surprising automakers didn't figure this out before introducing touch screens to the dashboard.
Paul Hott
We're the users familiar with the UI already? I'm a regular user, and know all the buttons to push to get here or there more efficiently. It can be a major distraction for someone unfamiliar with it, or someone who doesn't usually use voice prompts. However, as someone who uses both a lot I know there is no way Android Auto is worse than texting while driving, at least for me.
Roy Scott
These studies are beyond idiotic and the conclusions drawn are more dangerous than the things claimed to be more dangerous than texting while driving. I use Android Auto and Echo Auto basically every day and not once has it been a distraction.
Steven Quinn
The first issue is everything did work with voice command, but the software crashed.
Donald Wright
I agree! All these fancy technologie are distracting. Even talking to someone in your car is or can be dangerous. How many times does someone cut you by changing lines on the highway or traveling at very low speed on the left line, or not taking off on a green light? When we look, the driver does not even notice that he is being overtaken by his right and he or she stays there talking and gesturing as if he or she would be in his living room! Save drive averyone!
Bennifer Hui
What a crock. Plenty of studies from more reputable organizations as well as Consumer Reports have demonstrated the complete opposite. Easy to have a study say anything you want based on how you conduct it and methodology. Fortunately, we still have common sense. Get in a car and use them, and you'll see it's a no brainer.
Angus Gibbins
This is not surprising at all. Android Auto is a convuluted mess. Half the time would be spent trying to diagnose why audio is coming through the phone rather than the cars speakers.