Car Technology a Distraction?

The AAA’s Foundation for Traffic Safety said a study made by a University of Utah professor on the impact of infotainment systems on new car dashboards has created a safety problem for drivers who are distracted by the technology.

Drivers take their eyes off the road and hands off the wheel for dangerously long periods of time. Past studies also identified problems, but the study said the “explosion of technology” has made matters worse.

Some of the auto dashboards look almost like what you see in a jet airliner!

Car manufacturers, especially since 2013, offer more options to allow drivers to use social media, email and text. David Strayer of the University of Utah, who made the study for the AAA, said the technology is becoming more complicated to use. Cars used to have a few buttons and knobs. Some vehicles now have as many as 50 buttons on the steering wheel and dashboard that are multifunctional. There are touch screens, voice commands, writing pads, heads-up displays, windshields and mirrors, and 3-D computer-generated images.

“It’s adding more layers of complexity and information at drivers’ fingertips without often considering whether it’s a good idea to put it at their fingertips,” Strayer said. That complexity increases the overall amount of time drivers spend trying to use the systems.

The auto industry says the new systems are better alternatives for drivers than mobile phones and navigation devices that were not designed to be used while driving. It added that the new systems require driver attention that is comparable to tuning the radio or adjusting climate controls.

The AAA said the automakers haven’t worked hard enough to make systems quick and easy to use. Programming a destination into in-vehicle navigation systems was the most distracting activity, taking drivers an average of 40 seconds to complete the task. And the AAA said previous research has shown that drivers who remove their eyes from the road for just two seconds double their risk time for a crash.

A survey by AAA showed that nearly 70 percent of U.S. adults say they want new technology in their vehicles, but only 24 percent feel that the technology already works perfectly.

We’ve been hearing a lot about driverless cars lately. Will they have the capability to use all the technology on steering wheels and dashboards?