Over the last several years, more and more new vehicles have rolled off manufacturer and dealer lots equipped with systems designed to entertain and assist drivers. These are commonly called infotainment systems. They allow drivers to input destination addresses for directions; make or receive phone calls; send or receive text messages; and play music, audiobooks or podcasts. Even for functions that do not require the use of a driver’s hands, however, these systems have been found to create significant distraction among drivers.
AAA recommends systems that produce a low demand on drivers as the only viable and truly safe options. Unfortunately, none of the 40 different infotainment systems evaluated in a study conducted by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety met that criteria. Moderate demand was required by 11 systems, high demand by 12 and very high demand by 17 systems.
The study found that programming navigation was the task requiring the most time for drivers to complete, taking as long as 48 seconds in some instances. While systems based on smartphone operating systems versus from vehicle manufacturers were less distracting, they still required up to 33 seconds for a driver to program in a destination. Even at a slow speed, it may be possible for a person to move the length of three football fields all while not fully focusing on driving.
Consumer Reports assessed different in-vehicle systems and found models of vehicles from Tesla, Mercedes-Benz, Acura, Cadillac, Volvo and Lexus to have the most distracting systems. Problems included overly sensitive touchpads or buttons, text so small it was hard to read, complex setup processes and slow response times.