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Old 17th August 2020, 21:05   #1
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Default Your car's touchscreen could kill you | Safety concerns about modern in-car infotainment systems

Over the last few years, we are increasingly turning our attention to gadgets and screens inside the car, and ignoring the value of paying attention to the road. That a Tesla driver was fined in Germany for operating his wipers via the touchscreen (Tesla driver suspended for operating wiper from touchscreen), points to the problem with big screens, but that is just the tip of the proverbial iceberg.

IAM Roadsmart (formerly known as the Institute of Advanced Motorists or IAM) is a charity based in the United Kingdom whose objective is to improve car driving and motorcycle riding standards, and so enhance road safety.

This charity, in association with TRL, a global centre for innovation in transport and mobility, and funded by the FIA Road Safety Grant Programme and the Rees Jeffreys Road Fund (established in 1950, offering financial support toward education, research and physical projects on road safety), undertook a recent research which shows that the latest in-vehicle infotainment systems impair reaction times behind the wheel 2-3 times more than alcohol and cannabis use.

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Source

The key findings of the research included the following:

• Controlling the vehicle’s position in the lane and keeping a consistent speed and headway to the vehicle in front suffered significantly when interacting with either Android Auto or Apple CarPlay, particularly when using touch control.

• Participants failed to react more often to a stimulus on the road ahead when engaging with either Android Auto or Apple CarPlay compared with a control drive.

• Reaction time to a stimulus on the road ahead was higher when selecting music through Spotify when using Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. The impact on reaction time when using touch control was worse than texting while driving (based on previous studies).

• Use of either system via touch control caused drivers to take their eyes off the road for longer than NHTSA recommended guidelines. When using voice control all measures were within NHTSA guidelines.

• Participants underestimated the time they thought they spent looking away from the road when engaging with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay via touch control.

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Multiple studies have measured in-vehicle distraction when driving while performing secondary tasks such as hand-held and hands-free mobile phone use, text messaging and social media. All studies concluded that there were various forms of distraction (cognitive, visual and physical) that negatively affected driving performance.

Similar negative effects were also reported from use of modern in-vehicle manufacturer installed infotainment systems, namely Google’s Android Auto and Apple’s CarPlay, and found that these applications resulted in lower workload levels. Nevertheless, little research has been conducted to understand the impact of these new popular mobile-based infotainment systems on driving performance.


Participants had to meet the following criteria in order to be included in the study:
• Be regular users of a touchscreen smartphone (Android or iOS).
• Have a full UK driving licence.
• Be regular car drivers (i.e. drive more than once per week) and have over three years of driving experience.

Participants were assigned to the relevant trial based on whether they used Android or Apple devices. Forty-six participants were recruited using an opportunistic sampling approach; there were six cases of simulator sickness (5 females and 1 male). For the 20 participants who completed the Android Auto trial, the average age was 45 years (range 20 to 77; sd=18); 15 were male and 5 were female. The 20 participants who completed Apple CarPlay trial had a mean age of 37 years (range 20 to 57; sd=9); 13 were male and 7 were female. Thirteen participants in the Android Auto trial and 11 in the Apple CarPlay trial indicated that they currently used their mobile phones as in-vehicle infotainment devices.

TRL’s advanced driving simulator, DigiCar, was used for this study. DigiCar comprises a full vehicle (Peugeot 3008) with fully operational controls surrounded by curved screens for a 300˚ field of view.

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While the design of the trial was the same for Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, it is not possible to draw direct meaningful comparisons between the results obtained from the two trials. Both pieces of software have different operating systems that result in slightly different ways of using the applications.

On average, the reaction time during the touch drive (i.e. the driver was asked to perform tasks via touching the touchscreen) was the highest (2.3 seconds), followed by the voice drive (i.e. controlling the infotainment system by voice only) (2 seconds) and control drive (1.5 seconds). Statistical tests showed a significant difference in reaction times between the 3 drives.

The amount of time drivers diverted their attention from the road ahead when undertaking a task was calculated by observing recording of their eye gaze direction. Tables below show the average time spent looking at the infotainment system for each task in the touch and voice drives for Android Auto & Apple CarPlay.

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Conclusion
Participants took longer to react to external stimuli... when interacting with both infotainment systems using the touch feature followed by the voice feature in order to play music. Furthermore, participants failed to react to a larger number of stimuli when having to interact with either systems using the touch feature compared with the control drive. Compared with the control drive, reaction times showed a mean increase of 57% and 53% when playing music through Spotify using the touch feature on Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, respectively.

It suggests that the level of impairment found here is in line with use of a mobile phone for a hand-held call. Further, the effect of engaging with some features through voice control, with both systems, was akin to the impairment associated with conducting a handsfree call. All of these produce longer reaction times when benchmarked against alcohol consumption (at the legal limit) and cannabis use.

The full report can be accessed here.
Attached Files
File Type: pdf iam-roadsmart-trl-simulator-study_infotainment.pdf (2.83 MB, 287 views)

Last edited by SS-Traveller : 18th August 2020 at 01:16.
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Old 17th August 2020, 21:20   #2
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Default Re: Your car's touchscreen could kill you | Safety concerns about modern in-car infotainment systems

In the Indian context...

Our love for in-car gadgetry is not limited by what the manufacturer sells. Most car owners buy a lower-spec model, and "upgrade" the ICE system. Some of the more desirable (yet affordable) systems are those with touchscreens, but not necessarily incorporating voice command as a feature, as seen with Android Auto or Apple CarPlay.

The use of handheld mobile phones may have reduced due to steep fines in India today, but we are not as conscious as Germany, to levy fines on drivers using touchscreens to access functions such as music or a connected phone. However, the risks posed by using touchscreens while driving are similar to that when using handheld mobiles while making a call or texting.

Think about it - and don't touch that touchscreen while driving. Voice commands or steering mounted controls may still be acceptable for changing the music, but pull over the car before making/taking a call, texting or setting up the GPS.

Last edited by SS-Traveller : 17th August 2020 at 21:30.
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Old 18th August 2020, 02:55   #3
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Default Re: Your car's touchscreen could kill you | Safety concerns about modern in-car infotainment systems

Good that the research showcases the dangers of operating the touchscreen while driving. Before the Range Rover Sport I never had a car with a touchscreen, so I had not faced this. But since I started driving this car I have been bewildered on how people use the touchscreen while driving. As I have written somewhere before on this forum as well, I find it very difficult to use. Half the time I click on some other button. It is good that I hardly drive alone and most of the time I do not listen to music when I am alone. I usually operate it at a traffic signal or a traffic jam. But I truly feel that it is a menace and as SS-Traveler said, it is best to avoid the touchscreen while driving. I will surely not do it anymore.

Last edited by BlackPearl : 18th August 2020 at 02:56.
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Old 18th August 2020, 03:33   #4
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Default Re: Your car's touchscreen could kill you | Safety concerns about modern in-car infotainment systems

YouTube is filled with cars being modified with "Tesla" systems. Mind you, these are not always base variants which don't have a music system. Most often these are higher variants, where the owners feel the need to replace well designed and integrated OEM systems.

One of the most "demanded" features is the ability to play videos on the screen while the car is in motion. Most OEMs block such functionality and thus I guess, the urge to fit something which enables "video on demand"

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Old 18th August 2020, 04:43   #5
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Default Re: Your car's touchscreen could kill you | Safety concerns about modern in-car infotainment systems

I'm sorry but I believe this report is extremely biased against touch screens or should I say Android Auto/Apple CarPlay in general. They left out one important parameter. How do the participants fare when they are asked to do the same task in a regular 2-Din or 1-Din infotainment system?

Here are the tasks that the drivers were asked to perform

Quote:
Spotify
Participants were instructed to play music on the Spotify app in both the voice enabled and enabled drives. Participants were familiarised with how to use the app for both scenarios. In the voice enabled drive, participants were instructed to play “Shape Of You by Ed Sheeran”, whilst in the touch enabled drive, participants were instructed to play “Summer by Calvin Harris”. The first red bar corresponded with the participant attempting to complete this task.
AFAIK, no regular infotainment unit have support for Spotify. But how much time do you think a regular person will take to play a specific song using a standard 2-din audio system while browsing through the folders? I'm pretty sure it's going to take a lot more than a touch based interface and a hell of a lot more than using voice input. And if you say that "Well you can always start playing one song and keep on skipping until you reach the song you wish to play", that option is also available in every android/apple based unit. The test for Radio is similar to the Spotify one.

Quote:
Navigation
Participants were instructed to complete two navigation tasks per drive on the Maps app. Participants were familiarised with how to use the app for both scenarios. In the voice enabled drive, participants were instructed to navigate to “Reading Station”, and to “the nearest restaurant”. In the touch enabled drive, participants were instructed to navigate to “Wokingham Station”, and to “the nearest petrol station”. The second red bar corresponded with the participant navigating to Reading station and Wokingham station in the voice and touch drive respectively.
The most common alternates for navigation is either sticking your phone on a mobile phone holder or using a standalone device like TomTom. I don't think that anyone is going to argue that using your phone for navigation is any different or even slightly more inconvenient compared to Android Auto/AppleCarplay. If you are even thinking of setting up a standalone device while driving a car, you shouldn't be holding a driver's license. Period. The other alternate in developed countries is looking at road signs which is just as distracting with the added pressure of not being able to predict traffic conditions. In Indian context, you will have to stop at the local tea shop, probably in a tight spot, and ask a stranger for directions or cut across from all the way from rightmost lane to the leftmost lane as soon as you spot the sign board you're looking for. Both IMO are slightly more distracting/dangerous.

As for the analogy of drunk driving and using cannabis, if you start a journey under influence, the chances are you'll still be under influence when you end the journey either in a lucky or tragic note. But I've never heard of any 'sane' person starting a journey fiddling with the infotainment and ending the journey fiddling with the same. He/She probably would've given up long back or pulled over and figured out the trick.

IMHO, Android Auto/Apple CarPlay have made the infotainment system a lot more user friendly than ever. I'm sure my parents whom I know for sure to have trouble with regular infotainment systems will be much more comfortable with an interface very similar to that of their smartphones. And it's not so with just them. I took more time in figuring out how to pair my phone with a rental Nissan info unit than using the Android Auto for the entire trip. The ease of a standard user interface is unparalleled.

Now I know that using a touchscreen while driving is never advisable. But the fact is chit chatting with your co passenger or fiddling with the radio in your regular audio unit or checking and setting up the perfect temperature in your climate control system is just as much distracting. While I resent the practice of using touch screen to perform basic tasks like wipers, headlights, opening glovebox(Tesla), setting up temperature (4th gen City) etc, given a choice, I would never choose a regular audio over an Android/Apple based system. And for that reason I would just say that this thread should just be renamed - 'Your car's touchscreen could kill you; Just as much as the use of any other infotainment systems while driving'

Edit: As for the aftermarket monstrosities that are used just for 'bling', I don't endorse them as the displays could very well blind you while driving. My arguments are purely in favor of Android Auto/Apple CarPlay - The main focus of the study.

I just read read that the participants were familiarized with the route by letting them drive for 5 mins in the test route. They didn't specify how much time they were given for the participants to get familiarized with the infotainment unit. They just said that 'Participants were confident with the system'. Given that they had quite a good number of older, probably less tech inclined (I know, I'm going to hell ) participants, I sure hope they gave them much more than 5 minutes. That could very well make or break the test.

Last edited by Keeleri_Achu : 18th August 2020 at 05:04.
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Old 18th August 2020, 07:32   #6
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Default Re: Your car's touchscreen could kill you | Safety concerns about modern in-car infotainment systems

Other than on my smartphone & tablet, I HATE touchscreens. Am not that bothered with touchscreen ICE if manufacturers offer steering-mounted controls and physical knobs for important functions (most sensible brands do), but something like the tablet interface in the Hector was indeed distracting. And then, you have otherwise-responsible brands like Audi moving all the center-fascia buttons to touch.

It was incredibly frustrating to change even the climate control temperature while driving. This is me in the E-Tron:
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Old 18th August 2020, 09:23   #7
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Default Re: Your car's touchscreen could kill you | Safety concerns about modern in-car infotainment systems

One of the major features that is so in vogue for the potential car buyers is the ‘size’ of the touch screen. The manufacturers are fighting among themselves to provide the largest touch screen to the buyers and this fixation has lead to the sizes like 10 inches or 9 inches or may be even larger and which I find amusing.

That a large touch screen can be very distracting is well known and the drivers are at their liberty to not use them as per security protocols but then not everybody adheres to the same. However, for some map spotting the touch screens are handy. Voice controls are convenient too but use of the touch screens while driving is a major accident trigger and should be best avoided and this study kind of establishes that very well.
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Old 18th August 2020, 09:44   #8
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Default Re: Your car's touchscreen could kill you | Safety concerns about modern in-car infotainment systems

OEMs can and do block videos when cars are in motion. But I've been on a taxi where the driver was watching a lively Tamil debate show on his phone that was on the mobile holder. Needless to say, his driving was erratic and the fact that we were on the road at 11 PM saved us.

I've likewise spotted numerous white board drivers watching TV shows on their mobiles when they were stuck in stop-and-go traffic.

The means of distracting oneself are many; but the basic fact remains - thou shalt not distract thyself when behind thine wheel. God would speak thus to Moses if only the latter were to pass by that fabled mountain right now. Moses could jot it down on his Android tablet if he so wishes.
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Old 18th August 2020, 10:48   #9
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Default Re: Your car's touchscreen could kill you | Safety concerns about modern in-car infotainment systems

Gone are the good old days where I used to put a single 8 GB pen drive with all the old/new songs in the car stereo and it would auto play once I started the car.
Hardly used to browse in the 2 din Audio system just press next. It was an awesome feeling to listen to all the songs in the pen drive and start over in a road trip.

I use Android auto these days in Brute and I do find it distracting while playing songs, or other stuff. Earlier I used to park or use a Bluetooth device for calls. However now I use Android auto to browse through the contact list to find the person and call which definitely keeps one distracted for few seconds. Call me old school or whatever but I still prefer parking or at least slow down in left lane and then dialing some less used contact(My family is on speed dial so one touch is all you need).

I have seen people indulge in the ICE of their cars at high speed.
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Old 18th August 2020, 10:51   #10
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Default Re: Your car's touchscreen could kill you | Safety concerns about modern in-car infotainment systems

Quote:
Originally Posted by SS-Traveller View Post
All of these produce longer reaction times when benchmarked against alcohol consumption (at the legal limit) and cannabis use.
Thanks for sharing this and very necessary thread to create awareness on this topic since all manufacturers seem to be adopting this right from an S Presso/Kwid till the high end cars.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Keeleri_Achu View Post
I'm sorry but I believe this report is extremely biased against touch screens or should I say Android Auto/Apple CarPlay in general. They left out one important parameter. How do the participants fare when they are asked to do the same task in a regular 2-Din or 1-Din infotainment system?
Good counter arguments on the topic. I remember it was hard fiddling around with the knobs as well before I moved to an Android HU.

Voice based commands provide a middle ground without the need for touching the screen.
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Old 18th August 2020, 10:53   #11
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Default Re: Your car's touchscreen could kill you | Safety concerns about modern in-car infotainment systems

There should be a regulation for touch screen systems in the car, similar to what was done about talking on the phone while driving. Many aftermarket accessories these days are android tablets that can play videos while the car is moving. This is very distracting for drivers, perhaps more than talking on the phone.

Another aspect I do not understand is how these screens will face the test of time. Even a macbook does not last a decade, but a car should. Will people be forced to upgrade the systems later? The inbuilt specs are not very good for most systems in cars- RAM is just 2 GB usually. Hence, with android updates, this will be insufficient in just a few years.
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Old 18th August 2020, 10:58   #12
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Default Re: Your car's touchscreen could kill you | Safety concerns about modern in-car infotainment systems

I am one of those that dislike any digital readouts, let alone a touchscreen.

I drive around places where you can not afford to lose even a single second's distraction as you don't know which idiot is going to jump into your path.

I find the steering mounted controls immensely useful, and it is among the must haves in any new car that I intend to buy. Change music tracks or attend calls, I don't have to take my eyes off the road.

My kwid has a touch screen and I haven't used it more than half a dozen times in the entire 4 years of ownership.

Some may like the touch screen on the dashboard but it somehow irritates me to have something bright and distracting. And what's worse? Manufacturers keep increasing the size of the touch screens.

Even the lane watch camera in the new honda city is something cringeworthy in my view. God, I am happy with the ORVMs. I find the screen very distracting.

Last edited by PrasannaDhana : 18th August 2020 at 11:00.
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Old 18th August 2020, 11:24   #13
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Default Re: Your car's touchscreen could kill you | Safety concerns about modern in-car infotainment systems

I hate touchscreens in cars, period! While touchscreens for the ICE is still manageable, providing them for other functions like the AC controls is a big distraction while driving and I find it very annoying.

The problem is not just limited to owners upgrading their ICE systems to play videos while the car is in motion. Many people resort to the cruder format; have spotted many car users in Bangalore very conveniently watching videos on their mobile phones which are mounted on the dashboard/sun visors while driving. Like they say, a car is only as safe as the nut behind the wheel!
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Old 18th August 2020, 11:30   #14
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Default Re: Your car's touchscreen could kill you | Safety concerns about modern in-car infotainment systems

I think we've to consider the lesser of two evils. Would you rather have people:
1. using a system that is physically fixed, has limited apps, a larger UI, and decent voice commands (getting better...)

OR

2. fiddling with a phone having a smaller screen, lot more information, and the risk of dropping it.

No system is perfect and I think the choice is obvious - would rather have Android Auto/Apple CarPlay. OTOH, I completely detest moving basic controls (I'm looking at you Tesla) into the central touch screen.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Dry Ice View Post
YouTube is filled with cars being modified with "Tesla" systems....
Most OEMs block such functionality and thus I guess, the urge to fit something which enables "video on demand"
Oh my! The saying "You can never save people from their own stupidity!" applies here. Pity that others have to share the road with these drivers.

Last edited by landcruiser123 : 18th August 2020 at 11:33.
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Old 18th August 2020, 11:40   #15
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Default Re: Your car's touchscreen could kill you | Safety concerns about modern in-car infotainment systems

Quote:
Originally Posted by Keeleri_Achu View Post
How do the participants fare when they are asked to do the same task in a regular 2-Din or 1-Din infotainment system?
I think you have raised some very interesting points. Any survey needs to be analysed for the research methodology used and there are, inevitably, certain discrepancies.

However, I would humbly disagree with you on a few of these points. With physical knobs and buttons, muscle memory plays a very important role because these buttons provide you with physical feedback. As a result, after a while, you intuitively know where a certain control is and how to operate it, without taking your eyes off the road. For most basic actions such as adjusting the temperature on the ACC or changing the song/volume or changing the radio station, you can just rely on how the buttons feel under your finger and their approximate location and there is seldom any ambiguity when you click them.

This is not the case with touchscreens where even if the system provides you with haptic feedback, you would inevitably need to look at the screen to operate it. In this way, it is far more akin to using a smartphone on the go. This is, in fact, a recurring topic in most reviewers comments that I read. Even the new VW Golf Mk 8 has been heavily critiqued for over-reliance on touchscreens for something as simple as adjusting the volume, which is not nearly as intuitive as a physical knob.

Quote:
As for the analogy of drunk driving and using cannabis, if you start a journey under influence, the chances are you'll still be under influence when you end the journey either in a lucky or tragic note. But I've never heard of any 'sane' person starting a journey fiddling with the infotainment and ending the journey fiddling with the same. He/She probably would've given up long back or pulled over and figured out the trick.
I think the point of the study is not to determine for how long the effects of these activities last but what the level of distraction while performing these acts are. In other words, even though you would not be distracted by the touch-screen throughout the journey but for those small durations when you are, you are at an even greater risk than even if you were to drive under influence. Do remember that out on the road, it takes mere seconds for something to go horribly wrong.
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