Google’s Android Auto and Apple’s CarPlay systems have become important tools for accessing maps and music while in the car, but could they be doing more harm than good? I’d argue they’re the best way to access needed smartphone functions while behind the wheel, but a study claims that Android Auto and CarPlay could be a considerable distraction.

IAM RoadSmart pulled in assistance from TRL to find out just how much of a distraction systems such as Android Auto might be versus other things you might be doing while driving. The study found that, compared to an undistracted driver’s reaction time of roughly 1 second, Android Auto and Apple CarPlay could delay reactions by up to 57%, in turn increasing stopping distances by up to four car lengths.

As shown in the graphic below, the study found that Android Auto and CarPlay’s touch functions were the biggest distractions while voice commands were less impactful. Notably, Android Auto was less distracting than CarPlay in both cases. However, both were above the limit for drinking and driving, as well as driving while under the influence of cannabis. Texting was also apparently less distracting compared to the touch experience of Android Auto and CarPlay.

How did using these systems affect the driver? Apparently, controlling the vehicle’s speed and position in the lane “suffered significantly” especially when using touch controls with the “use of either system via touch control caused drivers to take their eyes off the road for longer than NHTSA (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration) recommended guidelines.”

android auto iam roadsmart study distraction

In light of these results, IAM RoadSmart has put out a public call for further review of these systems by authorities. For the time being, they recommended that drivers using these systems “set everything up before a journey.” Notably, Android Auto requires the car to be parked in order to be set up for the first time or use functions such as the keyboard.

Personally, I very much disagree with this study’s findings. I’ve been an Android Auto user for the past few years and, in that time, I’ve found that performing a task on Android Auto versus on my smartphone directly keeps my eyes on the road more often and keeps my hands on the wheel too.

Of course, any system is going to be more dangerous than just focusing 100% on driving, but if we’re going to argue against Android Auto, I think the same attention should be given to cars that ditch all forms of physical controls in exchange for a touchscreen.

What do you think? Is Android Auto a distraction? Let us know in the comments!

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