Technological advancement is great, but if it eliminates one problem while simultaneously causing another, can it really be considered an advancement?
That's one of the implications that gets made in a recently released AAA study that looks at the impact of infotainment systems on driving safety. Conducted by University of Utah professor David Strayer, it is the latest in a series of projects done by the AAA's Foundation for Traffic Safety.
Strayer's core argument is that the proliferation of new social platforms and their integration into infotainment systems has significantly raised the level of distraction that a driver experiences on the road. Between touch screens, voice commands, windshield displays, and everything else, the possibilities are exciting but also somewhat dangerous—something the study results attests to. Among 30 of the 2017 model year cars examined, drivers consistently took their eyes off the road and hands off the wheel. Researchers rated 23 of the vehicles either "very high" or "high" in terms of the attention they demanded from drivers.
"It's adding more and more layers of complexity and information at drivers' fingertips without often considering whether it's a good idea to put it at their fingertips," said Strayer.
Not everyone agrees with that assessment. Auto industry professionals are adamant that none of these infotainment systems pose any sort of new or heightened threats.
"[Vehicle-integrated systems] are designed to be used in the driving environment and require driver attention that is comparable to tuning the radio or adjusting climate controls, which have always been considered baseline acceptable behaviours while driving," said Wade Newton, a spokesman for the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers.
AAA is firmly on the other side of the argument, though. It says that drivers should use infotainment systems "only for legitimate emergencies or urgent, driving-related purposes," urging automakers to install features that would prevent drivers to program navigation systems or send texts while driving.