June 28, 2018—Apple CarPlay and Google’s Android Auto are less distracting to drivers when compared to built-in vehicle infotainment systems designed by automakers, according to new research from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety.
While many of today’s infotainment systems create potentially unsafe levels of distraction by allowing drivers to perform complex tasks like programming navigation or sending a text, CarPlay and Android Auto were 24 percent (5 seconds) faster on average than the vehicle’s native system when making a call and 31 percent (15 seconds) faster when programming navigation.
According to AAA, this difference is critical, as drivers who take their eyes off the road for more than two seconds double their risk of a crash. The findings indicate that popular infotainment systems can be designed in a way that is less distracting. Distracted driving is responsible for more than 390,000 injuries and 3,500 deaths every year.
The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety teamed with researchers from the University of Utah to evaluate five vehicles – 2017 and 2018 models – to determine the amount of visual and mental demand placed on drivers by CarPlay, Android Auto and each vehicle’s native infotainment system. While CarPlay and Android Auto can still create potentially unsafe levels of distraction and should not be used to perform complex tasks when behind the wheel, they decrease the demand placed on drivers compared to similar technologies offered by automakers.
Researchers found that CarPlay and Android Auto did not differ significantly from one another in the level of overall demand. A rating scale was used to measure the visual (eyes-off-road) demand, cognitive (mental) demand, and the time it took drivers to complete a task using the systems. The scale ranged from low to very high levels of demand.
A low level of demand equates to listening to the radio or an audiobook, while very high demand equates to an industry standard that produces demand similar to balancing a checkbook while driving. Both CarPlay and Android Auto generated an overall moderate level of demand while the native vehicle systems created very high levels of demand for drivers. AAA recommends that industry strive to design in-vehicle technology systems that do not exceed a low level of demand.
AAA cautions that not all vehicles are created equal when examining the overall performance of CarPlay and Android Auto. The interface design of some vehicles’ native systems resulted in additional menus and text on vehicle touchscreen displays, which increases the overall workload on drivers. Each vehicle’s system also influenced what features were locked out while the vehicle was in motion when using Android Auto and CarPlay. For example, some vehicles allowed drivers to access their entire contact list when calling or texting, while others limited the number of contacts shown or completely blocked access – resulting in the smartphone-based systems performing differently across various vehicle models.