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Apple CarPlay and Android Auto: Safer Than Manufacturer's Systems

Whenever we hear of a new model, whether it's a vehicle that debuts in an autoshow, or one recently reviewed during a test drive, the availability of Apple CarPlay and Android Auto apps are often mentioned. Connecting one's mobile phone to their vehicle and using it's features through the centre-console screen, have become an industry fixture.

What about their usage? The US American Automobile Association (AAA), the equivalent of our CAA, has investigated and completed a study to better understand their usage. Their conclusion? Both of these products are less distracting for drivers than systems offered by automakers. Furthermore, they are faster to operate. 

The testers discovered that while performing the two most common functions, making a phone call and the use of navigation, the apps were more efficient. Specifically, it took 5 seconds less to make a phone call, and 15 fewer seconds to program an address into the navigation system.

The testers also created a rating scale to measure the visual and mental demands required to perform these tasks, as well as the time it took to complete them using each system. For example, listening to the radio requires minimal effort, while a high demand may be the equivalent of balancing one's chequebook while driving.

Even though the use of Apple CarPlay or Android Auto only placed a moderate demand on drivers and were therefore considered safer, the experts concluded that all tasks related to the use of a navigation system represented a very high demand on drivers' attention. While Apple CarPlay received the highest marks, the risk is still considered high in this area.

“While improvements are necessary before any of the systems can be considered safe to use while driving,” said Dr. David Yang, executive director of the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety. " “this research shows that smartphone-based software has the potential to offer a simpler, more familiar design that is less confusing to drivers, and therefore less demanding.”

Interestingly, the study released a list of vehicles with the most intuitive systems and fewer distraction for drivers. The "moderate" category includes the Chevrolet Silverado, Kia Sportage and Optima and the Ram 1500. The new Volkswagen Jetta's systems present a high risk. Finally, the very high risk vehicle section was dominated by luxury products such as the BMW 430i, Buick Enclave, Range Rover Sport and the Mercedes-Benz C300.

In conclusion, the AAA recognized that phone designers are more adept at designing applications than auto manufacturers. The organization suggests that both parties work together to provide consumers with systems that require less attention from them.

A question of safety for all.