Toyota halts self-driving car tests on public roads
Study: Dashboard technology creating more distractions for drivers
The growing prevalence of "infotainment" technology in new vehicles is creating more distractions for drivers, according to new research from the American Automobile Association (AAA).
The study, released Thursday, looked at 30 different infotainment systems in 2017 vehicles and assessed how much visual and mental demand was required from drivers to use their features.
The technology, which has exploded in recent years, is built into the dashboard of the vehicle and provides entertainment and information content for passengers.
Participants in the AAA study were required to use voice commands and touch screens to make calls, send text messages, tune the radio or program navigation while driving. Researchers studied how long the driver's eyes were off the road and how long it took to complete certain tasks.
The study found that 23 systems generated "high or very high levels" of demand on drivers.
Drivers were most distracted while trying to program navigation - a task that took an average of 40 seconds for drivers to complete.
Even hands-free technology, which is intended to be safer, can create mental and visual distractions for the driver, the study found. That may "unintentionally provide motorists with a false sense of security about their safety behind the wheel."
The findings come as traffic fatalities have been climbing at historic rates, with distracted driving blamed as one of the factors.
"Visual and mental attention is key to safe driving, yet many technologies can cause drivers to lose sight and focus of the road ahead," the study said. "Just because a technology is available in your vehicle, does not mean it is safe to use while driving."