In a new study from IAM RoadSmart, a UK driving safety charity, it’s being claimed that driving while sloshed is, by at least some measures, “safer” than driving while using a touchscreen Apple CarPlay or Android Auto system.
IAM Roadsmart had drivers run through a simulated test course with following distance, stop-and-go highway traffic, and a figure-eight driving loop as the driving tasks, using this incredibly rad sim rig setup.
In the first run, test subjects drove with no phone-related tasks. In run two they used voice control, and in the final run, they used the touchscreen. Driving at the legal limit of .08 BAC resulted in a 12 percent increase in reaction times in previous studies, whereas using a touch device to control a phone resulted in over a 50 percent increase in reaction times. Directly from the test authors:
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.
Even just driving straight proved to be a challenge while using a touchscreen. The study even attempted to remove the initial confusion from new-system-familiarization by only having regular Android users use Android Auto, and only having iPhone users drive with Apple CarPlay. Even with this familiarity, drivers performed spectacularly poorly. At least some road attentiveness was regained by relying solely on voice controls, instead of touchscreens:
In general, driving performance was more negatively impacted when using touch control to interact with the systems compared with voice control. Participants were able to keep their eyes on the road more when using voice control than touch control, and were more likely to identify stimuli that required attention.
But most participants in the study reported using touchscreens rather than voice controls in real-world driving, which indicates that the worst-case scenarios are already likely in play on the roads.
Overall, this probably reinforces something we all suspected, but it shows that automakers need to take major strides in making car tech integration safer for everyone. Read the full report, complete with plenty of data visualizations, here.