Connectivity Must Take a Back Seat to Safety

Connectivity Must Take a Back Seat to Safety

Connectivity Must Take a Back Seat to Safety

Less can be more for car safety.

Jake Nelson is director of traffic safety advocacy and research for the American Automobile Association (AAA).

​The modern automotive dashboard is a monument to convenience, offering video screens, Facebook and contact lists. But while these tools give drivers more information and a heightened sense of connectivity, they do so at the cost of safety.

For years, organizations like the American Automobile Association, the National Safety Council and others have urged people to avoid distracted driving and make safety a priority when behind the wheel. Meanwhile, the latest vehicle infotainment systems are being packed with an array of high-tech features that have nothing to do with the core task of driving, like sending text messages, and in extreme cases, checking social media or surfing the web.

These are tasks we have no business doing behind the wheel, and they are coming through features car makers need not be offering.

study from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety evaluated infotainment technology in 30 new 2017 vehicles and found that many of these systems take drivers' eyes and attention off the road and hands off the wheel for potentially dangerous periods of time.

In the study, drivers used voice command, touch screen and other interactive technologies to make a call, send a text message, tune the radio or program navigation, all while driving. The research showed that programming navigation was the most distracting task, taking an average of 40 seconds for drivers to complete. Forty seconds – that is four football fields while driving at just 25 mph, which is too much time and too much distance traveled without proper focus on the road. 

In the study, researchers found that most infotainment systems tested could easily be made safer by simply following clearly stated federal recommendations, such as locking out text messaging, social media and programming navigation while the car is in motion.

AAA has conducted this new research to help automakers and system designers improve the functionality of new infotainment systems and the demand they place on drivers. These systems should be no more visually or mentally demanding than listening to the radio or an audiobook. AAA met with interested auto manufacturers and suppliers to discuss the findings, and we welcome the opportunity to meet with other interested parties to discuss the report's recommendations and ways to mitigate driver distraction.

These are solvable problems. AAA is committed to working with automakers to improve these technologies and to help insure a safe ride home for everyone at the end of the day.

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