Modern cars offer complex infotainment systems with media streaming, live navigation, and autonomous capabilities that are supposed to let the driver relax. But are these automotive advances more distracting while driving than helpful? Taking your eyes off the road for just two seconds doubles a driver’s risk of a crash.
In 2013 the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) issued guidance establishing maximum lengths of time that infotainment tasks should entail. It stated that any task should be completed with glances of two seconds or less, while recommending that particularly dangerous activities, like accessing social networks or watching videos, be blocked while the car is in motion. Automakers can, and do, ignore these suggestions. Assessments have found that many infotainment systems already created distraction that exceeded NHTSA’s recommended threshold.
“Voice-command functions found in new in-vehicle technology are intended to help drivers by keeping their eyes and attention on the road,” Brad says. “Unfortunately, the complexity of some of these systems could cause more harm for drivers instead of helping them.” By 2030, more than one in five drivers on the road will be over the age of 65. With seniors becoming the fastest growing demographic in the U.S., finding ways to design technology to improve their comfort and safety is critical and may hold the key to enhancing the safe use of this technology for all drivers.
Design changes to infotainment systems, like improving voice-command technology, simplifying menus, removing complex center console controls, and positioning system controls to allow drivers to keep their eyes on the road, would make the systems safer for all drivers. When driving a new purchased vehicle or a rented one, AAA recommends that all drivers keep the following tips in mind:
- Avoid interacting with in-vehicle infotainment technology while driving except for legitimate emergencies.
- Practice using the voice command and touch screen functions when not driving to build comfort in case emergency use is required.
- Avoid vehicles that require use of a center console controller when using the infotainment system. These kinds of systems are especially distracting, and potentially dangerous.
Top 12 Cars with Best Infotainment Systems
To help car shoppers, U.S. News & World Report releases a yearly report of vehicles from various classes and price points that receive praise for their infotainment systems.
- Jeep Gladiator – 8.5 score
- Audi A8 – 8.5 score
- Ford Expedition – 8.5 score
- Volkswagen GTI – 8.5 score
- Buick Enclave – 8.6 score
- Volkswagen Atlas – 8.6 score
- Audi Q3 – 8.6 score
- Dodge Challenger – 8.7 score
- Ford F-150 – 8.7 score
- Chevrolet Traverse – 9.0 score
- Honda Odyssey – 9.1 score
- Ram 1500 – 9.4 score