Interactive technology in your vehicle refers to infotainment systems that allow you to perform certain tasks while driving. It includes smartphone applications as well as native systems that the car manufacturer builds in. These systems allow you to perform tasks such as programming navigation, making phone calls, sending text messages or programming audio entertainment. Though some of these tasks are hands-free, they may still represent a dangerous distraction while driving. 

The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety conducted research on 40 native infotainment systems as well as two smartphone applications. Researchers measured the time it took drivers to complete a task. They also calculated the demand each made on the drivers’ cognitive and visual attention. The conclusion was that all the technology tested in the study put unreasonable demands on your attention while potentially lulling you into a false sense of security. 

Which interactive technology placed the greatest demand on attention?

According to the study, smartphone applications placed a lower demand on drivers’ attention than native infotainment systems. Nevertheless, smartphone applications placed a moderate level of demand on drivers’ attention, which is still potentially unsafe. 

Eleven of the 40 native infotainment systems tested generated a similarly moderate demand on drivers’ attention. The 29 remaining systems generated either high or very high demand. None of the infotainment systems tested generated low demand. 

Which task is the most distracting?

Programming navigation was the most demanding task measured in the study. It took between 40 and 48 seconds with a native system and approximately 30 seconds with a smartphone application. Interactive technologies included the use of touch screens and voice commands that took drivers’ eyes off the road and/or occupied their mental focus for the duration of the task.