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Apple CarPlay, Android Auto distract drivers more than pot, alcohol, says study (iamroadsmart.com)
343 points by cglong 8 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 240 comments





I'm curious how different it would be if you could control Android auto with physical buttons. I'm not sure why touchscreens are allowed in cars at all. you can't use them without looking directly at them.

even voice can be distracting when you have to repeat variations of the same command five times and keep checking whether it actually works.

I hope this kind of thing doesn't get banned entirely. when it works, I find that having a good navigation system allows me to pay more attention on actually driving the car.


My favorite interaction with CarPlay so far were the Mercedes models that had the little wheel in the center console that you could use to navigate. All you had to do was take a quick glance at the screen if you didn't already know how many clicks you had to turn the wheel, or if you did know you could do it without looking. In all the newer models I've driven they've replaced the wheel with a touchpad like thing which is awful.

I'm in the market for a car, and I want something new or new-ish, but I can't find any cars I like without touchscreens all over the place. I'm now looking at used cars from around 2012, before all the touchscreen nonsense became pervasive, but still with most of the modern conveniences I'm in the market for. I'm not in a rush so I might just wait and see still, but I said that a couple of years ago as well and the touchscreen craze has just gotten worse I feel like.


Car manufacturers should look to motorcycles for minimal-distraction UIs. I have a late-model BMW touring bike which has a sizeable number of features (adjustable suspension, throttle response, grip heaters, cruise control), all of which can be controlled by feel/touch from buttons on the handlebars.

That said, car drivers really should get in the habit of making playlists so they can set up music and maps before they start rolling.


I commute daily on a bike and I don't have any of these features. All I have is google assistant through my Bluetooth headset in the helmet.

As a rider, I love the lack of distraction and can focus on everything going on around me, an important skill for staying alive on a bike.


My Android Auto has limited features compared to the app, for example you cannot make a new playlist, only access existing ones.

I'm sure it can be distracting, but it is also easy to set up with minimal interaction.

Ultimately, it comes down to individual behavior.


> Ultimately, it comes down to individual behavior.

The problem with all this is that it just depends. If I check a message after stopping at a red light? No real risk. If i hit "call" whilst on an empty straight motor way for a hands free chat? No real risk.

If I try and compose an email on a country lane, or find a specific artist to play, or set a reminder whilst driving through a town centre... quite a lot of risk.

My car still has cassettes, so I have probably taken more risk changing over those (where is that bloody mixtape I want) than the limited phone use I have done


> Ultimately, it comes down to individual behavior.

If this were true cars wouldn’t have touchscreens built in.


They do have them on F1 steering wheels (3 rotating dials for each thumb - on upper and two inside) - see https://i.ytimg.com/vi/iO-QwuFqzgI/maxresdefault.jpg

My understanding is that those steering wheels are highly customized according to the preferences of each driver. Good thing they are detachable (as they must be, so the driver can get into and out of the cockpit), so the driver can use it with different cars. (Source: Ars Technica long ago?)

Mazda is currently updating all their models with the new infotainment which removes the touchscreen. Android auto and Car play still work with a rotary controller. The screen is also closer to the eyeline of the driver so you don't have to look far away from the road

Had a Mazda 3 with this, although before Android Auto sadly. That input method is by far the best possible; everything is laid out so nicely in terms of using muscle memory, and the rotary knob interface just does the job.

Their approach is far better than the all glass, cost saving Tesla one.


If you still have it, most 2014+ models can have Android Auto added at the dealer, plus there is a open source diy version you can install also

Cheers, it was a 2014 Mazda 3 Astina - got rid of it to ride to work instead. I knew it was coming, but happened after I said goodbye.

As others have mentioned if you have the touchscreen, (2015+) you can get carplay/android auto added on. I did and having google maps with traffic is a huge upgrade to their built-in nav. I can't speak to android auto, but for carplay, the rotary knob, while it works, isn't as intuitive or reliable as the built in-OS. I actually find myself thinking that I have become less safe of a driver when interacting with it, as the finickiness prevents muscle memory from developing.

It works super good with Car Play from Apple as well. Definitely worth it

It's a ballsy move from Mazda. It's a move that definitely goes against the grain for consumer tech. It's better for drivers but I'm sure they lost some potential customers for sticking to their guns.

I don't think there is any way to know but I'd be interested to see some kind of study/data around people buying or passing on a car because of the presence or lack of touch screen.

It seems like a feature that no one would really care about either way that car manufacturers just seem to think people want. It may even be because its cheaper than to R&D a user friendly tactile system with enough features vs just throwing software at it.



Even in previous generation models (2014-2018 I think) the touchscreen is only enabled when the car isn't moving. For me using the rotary knob became muscle memory so I don't ever use the touchscreen anyway.

That's great to know. I ended up with a 2018 Mazda 3 after I gave up trying to find a car that didn't have a screen and ticked the other boxes I wanted. I seriously considered an Audi A4 just because the screen retracts when you start driving.

This is something Apple could, at least in theory, fix on its end.

Right now, CarPlay interfaces with steering wheel remotes in the standard way where prev/next buttons change tracks and volume +/- changes the volume. What Apple could do is this: add a toggle somewhere in the OS that remaps these to cursor controls. This would, without any effort required on the part of auto manufacturers, bring something comparable to the Mercedes control system to the majority of CarPlay compatible vehicles on the road, all via an OS update.


Carplay on my subaru has navigation by dials all the time. The touch screen works, but the dials are always available. You just turn the right side dial (normally used for tuning when the radio is active) to move the focus on the screen, and press to select. It's how I nearly always interact with carplay.

Surely, the answer is to use Siri?

Now you have two problems.

It's funny to hear you praise that wheel, because internally (in the cloud software division, not hardware) everyone pretty regularly derides it. Of course our only interactions with the hardware are disembodied head units that we're paying 100% attention to, not trying to use out of the corner of our eye while driving.

This is one advantage of smaller teams -- the hardware and software people can communicate needs more effectively, like the importance of tactile controls. From threads like this I think the mistake the industry has made is prioritizing "hands-free" (and mechanical parts reduction) when what we really need is "eyes-free".

Have you considered a BMW with their iDrive controller for the satnav/entertainment?

I have yet to find a car with a better UX (aside from road handling, which I find equally good, but that’s another topic).

Touchscreens should only be allowed in cars with self-driving capabilities, and probably only on the higher levels.


I have, and I find it abhorrent.

In some lists the scrolling wraps around. In some it doesn't. Sometimes it's a click on an item. Sometimes it's a shift to the side.

And the systems I've seen (in BMW's DriveNow) have the worst feature of them all. The main screen where you have your selection of things to do (Nav, Car options, Media, Radio etc.) is not a fixed list, it's an MRU list.

So, if let's say radio is the very last item on the right side of the main screen, and you chose it, the next time you go back to the main screen, it will be the first on the left side of the screen. Now use Nav, go back. Now Nav is the first item and radio is the second item.

It is my long standing theory that people who design car interfaces have never seen a car in their entire life much less have driven one.


I've heard great things about BMW's system, only because you can bind the hotkeys to any screen/feature you want. But there's only like 8 and they all look the same.

True, but they stay at the exact same location, so it‘s easy to memorize.

(And just hovering/slightly touching the key will show the current setting in the display.)


Is this a newer thing? I drive a 2009 model and this is surely a fixed list there. I agree, an MRU would drive me crazy.

It could be a newer thing or their DriveNow interface on top.

Audi Carplay has this too, their screens don't even allow touch.

I put a Sony XAV-1000 in my '07 Honda Fit recently, it was the only Carplay unit I could find with a physical volume knob. You can hold the volume knob down to activate Siri, so I never have to actually use the touchscreen. It's been very nice for Apple Maps/Spotify, I'd recommend looking into it.


I don't think variants of this are particularly uncommon, at least in newer cars -- on my Honda Insight, I can hold down a button on my steering wheel to activate Siri.

(Personally, I don't think I find CarPlay any more distracting than any other in-dash screen; I'm not looking down at the car's built-in navigation system any more than I'm looking at Apple Maps on the same screen. But, I also tend to listen to podcasts while driving, so once they're playing and the map destination is set I rarely have much impulse to fiddle with things.)


The screens are because all new cars in the US are required to have backup cameras now. The lack of physical controls to go with them is entirely on the car companies, though.

i was looking for a "safe" car and that's why I didnt buy a current volvo. to add to the problem the screen is laggy too. kind of reminds me of cars before seatbelts. safety has come sooo much farther but seems we have a few new lessons to learn as we catch up with the shiny new tech.

What was your problem with the volvo specifically? I just collected a 2020 XC60 T8 and I have zero issues with it. Much much better than the infotainment system I had in my 2016 Mercedes, far more intuitive and very responsive. My only gripe so far is that if I navigate away from Android Auto I need to scroll left to bring it back up again.

I can't speak for OP but can echo the sentiments with laggy touchscreens in Volvos. I don't know about the 2020 models or even 2019, but certainly the 2017-2018 models had issues in my experience. Maybe they've fixed them, but it left a sour taste in my mouth. I've always been a fan of Volvo's interface pre-touchscreens, they just made sense to me somehow. This is why I'm looking at a late model C70 as a potential purchase.

2019 and onwards got much faster CPUs. I was aware of people complaining about the speed and laginess of the interface on the models before then, but it's not been a problem in my experience, everything is pretty responsive.

Ah right that might be it then. The older models definitely had issues, to the point where you weren't sure if it had actually registered the press or if it was just being slow. The worst of it was the inconsistency, it would sometimes be responsive, and most of the time not. Glad to hear the 2020 models seem better!

I suspect it'll have to get solved the same way as seat belts did, too. For the same reason: Cost. A low-distraction interface is going to be more expensive to develop and manufacture than a touchscreen that can be largely assembled from commodity parts and some software.

> A low-distraction interface is going to be more expensive to develop and manufacture than a touchscreen that can be largely assembled from commodity parts and some software.

That seems bizarrely counter-intuitive as a more-or-less standardized low-distraction interface already exists for car radios.

Okay, sure, you add the touch screen so you can do GPS and stuff, but is it really that hard to wire up a pre-existing car radio knob and buttons to an Android device along with some software to map twisting the knob to adjusting the audio volume and so on?

It just baffles me how little apparent attention was given to this sort of thing. I wonder if these people are dogfooding.


The way I read the history section here https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Seat_belt makes it sound like seatbelts are mandated.

In what way is it cheaper to install seatbelts than not?


I think what the GP is saying is that because seatbelts were an added expense, the only way they were ever widely adopted was through legislation, and that distraction-minimizing infotainment systems will have to follow a similar path.

Right, sorry, yes, I see that now.

what also bothers me about this is even if I don't buy one for the perceived safety risk, others can. the risk remains.

IIRC Mazda is looking to remove touch from their driver UI.

We have a 2018 Mazda 6 and a 2019 Honda Odyssey.

The Mazda does have the little wheel (it's down near the gearshift) and in addition the touchscreen on the display screen is disabled when you are in motion (which I think is a great idea). I adapted to it within an hour (I was coming from our older 2007 Honda Civic which has none of these)

The Honda does not have the wheel and you can use the touchscreen any time (which I think is a bad idea)

So a good compromise for you might be a Mazda (I think all cars will come with screens especially now backup cameras are federally mandated)


The newer models (2019, at least) still have that wheel as an option. I love it. I didn’t realize how great it was until I had to rent a car with touchscreen CarPlay for a couple weeks and it SO distracting compared to the Mercedes wheel.

BMW has a pretty decent non-touch infotainment system. It is a wheel style but they do also offer touch if you want to use that.

I've driven i3s and, unfortunately, it's not ideal.

Well, the knob is fine - the CarPlay apps aren't. You can find the physical control by touch, but for any non-trivial operation you still have to actively watch the display as you fiddle the dial to get to the action (on-screen control) you need.

Which is dangerously distractive on the road and kind of irritating when parked.


Audi had this scrollwheel too. It was great. The newer Audis have touchscreens and I find them distracting as well.

There are Mazdas with the center tactile knob for CarPlay interactions.

I hear yah. FYI Current gen maxima has a wheel used to navigate

Audi A5 - still a small wheel in the 2017 model

Audi is also pretty good at making more relevant information and controls available in the dial display area, controlled with a scroll on the steering wheel.

Audi does this too. It isn’t a touchscreen.

I think most of them have this feature. In a Subaru you can the radio tune dial to navigate instead of touching.

> I hope this kind of thing doesn't get banned entirely. when it works, I find that having a good navigation system allows me to pay more attention on actually driving the car.

Anecdotally, over the years I've been driving, a majority of potentially collision-causing mistakes I've made (and that I've noticed) have been when I've been cognitively distracted by navigation systems and was looking for a turn/exit or thinking ahead for a turn/exit.

I've adjusted to always prioritize real-time safety even if it comes at the cost of missing my turn and having to double back to get where I'm going. I believe that following nav directions in real-time comes at a safety cost, and am skeptical that many people both realize this and make the appropriate adjustments.


I'm guessing this is a ymmv type situation. I personally find navigation to be by far the most stressful part of driving. I have a bad tendency to flip binary directions like left/right, east/west, etc. when I first had my license (before navigation apps for your smartphone really existed), I had to spend a lot of my cognitive budget trying to remember whether the turn at X St was a right or left and not paying as much attention to the evolving situation on the road. I'm always willing to miss an exit/turn if I notice it too late or there isn't room to merge safely. if anything, I'm more willing to miss a turn in an unfamiliar area when I know the nav system will automatically find a new route.

this probably varies depending on your spatial reasoning skills. my brother can take a quick look at a map and remember the connectivity of all the major roads and then navigate from memory. whenever I try this, I end up in a stressful loop of miss turn -> find place to pull over to look at map -> miss turn again. stress has a comparable impact to driving safety as distraction in my experience.


> I've adjusted to always prioritize real-time safety even if it comes at the cost of missing my turn and having to double back to get where I'm going.

To me, this is where GPS shines. If I miss an exit, it isn't a big a deal because the GPS will tell me the best route based on my current circumstances.


I find that to be true, and actually consider this an advantage of GPS. I remember being super careful not to miss turns before it, because getting back might be difficult or confusing in some cases.

Now, I don't care so much. GPS can route me back pretty easily if I miss anyway.


This is the attitude we need collectively. It no longer matters as much to miss a turn, GPS will optimize the best route moving forward.

Some people are however, still unwilling to be delayed no matter the danger.


Depends on the circumstances. On a roundabout, the cost of missing an exit is minimal. On a highway, it’s often 30km, and can be much higher (we once missed an exit and ended in Mexico on a 3hour illegal detour).

I can understand that, but I don't that it takes a lot of attention to keep from missing highway exits that are far apart.

It does still happen sometimes, though.


Still not sympathetic. That's no reason to put someone's life in danger.

I had one of those portable navigation systems before in my old car and had it mounted on the lower left end of the front window. It was perfect. I never felt distracted or in need to leave the street out of my view for longer.

Now I have a quite large navigation screen in the mid console and those optional arrows next to my speedometer. It really took some time to get me to not look and the centre screen. It took even longer to get used to just listen to what the computer lady says.

I can't understand how this centre screen has become a safe standard. Especially in countries like Germany where there is no speed limit. It's a toy for passengers.


In fact that is why the audio buttons on the steering wheel are the only way I can listen to music off my phone. If I gotta unlock my phone and look down to find the "button" on screen its too distracting for my comfort level.

I dont know how people can text and drive. I usually see cars swerving and driving way too slow into a high way and it always turns out they are texting up a storm when you look.


they just don't realize how obvious it is from outside the vehicle. that's the scary part.

Not even from a safety perspective, but from a UX ergonomics perspective:

Give me a D pad, an OK and a Cancel button. And make a phone API that works exclusively by that and the sounds and chimes it outputs.

I just want every supported app to be in a top level list that I arrow through and OK. Then within any app the options are all navigable in simple ways. Overall functionality is reduced.

Voice control is a secondary system altogether.


It almost feels as if we pretend that "hands free" solves the distraction problem. In practice, I find that voice commands don't work reliably enough most of the time and, as you say, add the increasing frustration of repeatedly trying things and cursing at Siri or Google.

If I try to do voice commands while driving my field of vision narrows to a pinprick.

Hey I've noticed this too. It's like I'm mentally somewhere else. Very odd. Fortunately, when I drive long distances I have other people in the car. And when I drive short distances, I can just stop wherever and change things.

Honestly, on 101 and 280 I see drivers texting all the time and they're driving right in the lane, no problems at all except being slow to react to what happens in front of them (which makes it obvious they're on the phone). I don't know how they do it. Even glancing down at my phone instead of the center console loses so much state.


I don't use voice commands but neither do I use the screen. I have my navigation app on my phone speak to me using text-to-speech while my phone is screen-down in the center console. When I need to input something I either have the passenger do it, or I find someplace to pull over.

Pulling over to make changes may not be the most convenient, but I think for me at least, it's safest.


This is a great question.

There's no question that physical controls for the most common tasks in a vehicle (there are actually very few) take less attention.

Additionally, it seems like one great promise of software in a vehicle would be to augment and improve upon that fact by design. But it's terribly obvious that this has not been a design goal ever. The goal has been to take the familiar UX of your phone and transfer it to your car so that the media component is immediately familiar (this is nice), but all the while we could have been making the act of driving safer too...


Or Android's obnoxious tendency towards silent failure of the Google Assistant. How many times has your phone just just get stuck in the busy-spinner? Mine does often. No audio feedback, not even a way to stop it without picking up the device.

IMO touch screens should be banned as a part of safety regulations. There's simply no need from them in cars, it's a gimmick. Physical buttons are better and don't you to look at them to use them while driving.

Physical buttons are much safer, and this is well known within the industry. But touch screens are cheap and easy - so automakers won't go back to physical buttons unless they are forced to by regulators.

I agree. I don't think touchscreens in cars should be a thing. Anything that requires you to look away from the road is a huge distraction, especially a giant colorful screen.

Also, the physical controls never change, so it's much less mental effort if you do glance at them.

Is it true that you can't use touchscreens in cars without looking at them? I don't drive so I wouldn't know, but my experience touch typing on my smartphone (and I don't use it very often) and as a cashier during high school who used a touch screen point-of-sales system would lead me to believe otherwise. Sure you can't keep track of its state the entire time, but you only need to glance at it to know what state/screen to operate/navigate from.

As the owner of a modern car, PoS systems are in a whole different league than cars. In particular, PoS vendors actually care about making usage efficient.

In my car, if I want to increase the fan speed, I need to tap a small target, wait while the system lags out, and then tap a new target on a popup. Meanwhile, I’m trying to focus on the road at (effectively) infinity. It’s distracting and unsafe.

In my old, very well designed 1991 car, I could push the button to do this. It had two major benefits: it never moved and I could feel it. Touchscreens can’t replicate the feel of a button, but they could at least have the decency to keep controls in the same place.


This is my big objection to Tesla's "touch screen for everything" approach. I know Tesla fans love it, but in my modern car (a 2019 Honda Insight), if I want to change the fan speed -- or anything else about the A/C -- I touch a physical button or twist a physical knob.

A recent software update introduced Natural Language Processing and opened up pretty much every control that would otherwise require a button or dial.

I can literally tell it "Turn on driver seat heaters to 3 bacons" and it will set the seat heater to the max setting (1-3).

https://youtu.be/mV8h2doorrc?t=58

https://www.tesmanian.com/blogs/tesmanian-blog/voice-command...

So no, I disagree that physical buttons are safer than an NLP enabled infotainment/dashboard display where I can turn on/off and adjust things using voice. Without taking my eyes off the road and hands off the wheel.


You can change the fan speed (and much more) in a tesla via buttons on the steering wheel.

Yes. By pressing a scroll wheel to pop up a menu, then scrolling through the menu to select a mode, then pressing the scroll wheel again to select a mode, then scrolling once more to peform the desired action.

This may well be better than using the touchscreen, but it's still bad.


Yes the best way is to use voice control. You can tell the tesla to "set fan speed to 2" and it will do it. Voice commands are the safest imho.

But at least in my car I only need to select fan speed in the first menu then scroll do actually change it. This in a model x. But I was really responding to the "100% touch screen" statement.


I have never gotten my Tesla to understand a voice command like this. I could get music and phone calls, and that was it. The second-to-last update that supposedly made it better instead broke voice commands almost completely. Supposedly the update from a couple days ago is better.

In contrast, IIRC a 2007 Prius could do this type of voice command with no obvious difficulty.


That was my experience before the christmas update but after that it understands almost everything I say both in my south-western Norwegian dialect (if I set it to Norwegian) and my English.

The only bug I've found so far was when I said "open driver door" and it displayed "opening trunk" and it slammed it into my garage door!


I’m guessing my particular combination of hardware versions just got broken. I have MCU1 and the old Mercedes-style wheel. After the Christmas update, it couldn’t recognize anything. I think I got it to make a phone call once.

> Yes the best way is to use voice control. You can tell the tesla to "set fan speed to 2" and it will do it. Voice commands are the safest imho.

...if you are from English-speaking country or you know English.

Does Tesla understand every language in the world?

Or: how would my father change settings in Tesla? Would he need to learn one English phrase ("Tesla/Alexa/Siri/Whatever, open Google translate"), then speak in his native language, then somehow speak the translated text to Tesla's system?

Currently in his car, he does that by pressing a button. Done.


It does understand Norwegian (even dialect) just fine at least if the car is set to Norwegian UI.

I'm going to say Tesla did this for no good reason. They could've added 3 knobs to the center console and nobody would have complained.

I replaced my 2015 jeep with a 2020 and luckily, it still has volume and air knobs! Sadly, they replaced the AC mode knob with a mode button. It kinda works, but the UI could be better for it. Pushing it displays a popup on the screen saying what mode it is now in. It should show the order of modes, then at least I could more easily memorize it lol.

I drive a lot and quick glance is usually fine I'd say, but touchscreens often require more than a glance because the UI isn't as static as a typical dashboard. You lose context between apps, and so you end up having to look a bit longer. But the worst part isn't the glancing to be honest, the worst part is that when you're driving there are all these little changes in the road that makes you miss your target on the screen. Maybe it's a little bump or maybe there's a tiny adjustment in the steering that does it, but you end up tapping the wrong thing so often you then have to go back and fix things, and that's where you get into trouble I find because now your attention is truly divided.

I like CarPlay, and found in the Mercedes models that had the little control wheel in the center console it worked well, because you had a physical switch to interface with CarPlay, but had the flexibility of the screen. I'm no expert, but I drive a lot of different cars and that so far is my favorite way of interacting with CarPlay.

I'd still prefer a simple dashboard with physical controls though.


My fingers have pretty much memorised the few things I sometimes change from the screen while driving in my tesla, but 99% of what I would use the screen for can also be done via the buttons on the wheel / voice command. I still glance over when I do hit the screen though to make sure I did it correctly.

I think with the latest update I can also control the active suspension via voice which is the only thing I still use the display for while driving except for hitting cancel on the navigation once in a blue moon. Cancelling navigation might also be available via voice command now, I haven't checked.

In any case, voice and physical buttons (on the steering wheel) is much safer than touching or buttons below the screen the screen regardless. At least I feel much more in control personally when I can keep my eyes on the road and not glance away / feel my way to a spot on the screen.


A point of sales system has the distinct advantage of not travelling at a combined speed of 60 metres / 200 feet per second.

Glancing takes a long time because your eyes don’t just have to flick to and fro, you need to actually refocus your vision, scan for and find the object or point you’re intending to look at, switch contexts, then do it all over again.

> you only need to glance at it

I think you answered your own question.


the button targets are much smaller on most infotainment screens. also, the vehicle being in motion makes it a lot harder to rely on muscle memory.

Obviously I can't say if this is universally true, but it is most certainly true for me. I have CarPlay, and I do my damnedest to control it with Siri. It always feels incredibly dangerous to use the touchscreen.

Because of the problems I have with Siri, I end up using the touchscreen much more than I'd prefer. My latest defensive habit is to queue up enough audio for the trip and not touch it again until I arrive.

I would definitely prefer hardware buttons.


> I'm curious how different it would be if you could control Android auto with physical buttons

You can, if the car is made that way of course, but the software supports it. I would not buy a car knowing it's only a touchscreen. At least in my car, the radial controls the focus on Android Auto and press it down to select. The screen is not a touch screen.


I hope Google and Apple will consider putting in place a solid way of navigating the UI with physical buttons. As much as I love Android Auto, I feel like I'm always constrained to use voice commands which I hate with a passion, and I already stick to my steering wheel buttons to control music playback.

Android already has a solid way of navigating UI with physical buttons. The first generation of Android phones didn't have touchscreens, so the whole OS was designed around DPAD controls — it's support for navigating UI with directional buttons is second to none.

The problem isn't OS itself, but applications. Android application developers are frequently implementing custom graphical components, that do not handle "presses" and "clicks" and instead try to directly interact with touchscreen.

Google have made a number of increasingly aggressive attempts to work around the issue — for example recent versions of Android try to infer purpose and interactivity of custom UI elements instead of expecting developer to declare it. But that does not help, when everyone is using a handful of fancy libraries, hardwired to require touchscreen.

Incidentally, the biggest offender is not a third-party component... It is RecyclerView — Google's official item list implementation, distributed as a separate library. It's support for DPAD navigation is so abysmal, that Google's own engineers (from different department, I presume), had to create Leanback framework largely from scratch instead of relying on official RecyclerView components.


Who cares about Android Auto with specific buttons, I wanted them to compare the same tasks to a old device.

How distracting is it to play a specific song on a radio from 1999? Or a specific FM radio station that isn't already programmed?


2000 Volvo with same radio interface as the earlier 850. For playing a particular song, rest my wrist on the shift lever and push seek next until it gets to the right track. For a specific station, same button until it lands on that station. Not particularly distracting, and minimal glancing at the LCD readout that only shows current frequency or track number.

You can control android auto with physical buttons. It’s really up to the car makers. In my car I rarely need the touchscreen. I use a pixel 3a in a Honda Clarity.

Mazdas have a physical wheel to control Android Auto and CarPlay. I couldn't live without it. Also true for Toyota Yaris and the older Scion iA.

It's pretty easy to set up navigation without voice control. Basically just pull over for a second, enter your destination, start navigation, then get back on the road. It probably takes the same amount of time as voice commands, but it's not nearly as distracting.

Do you really use physical buttons on the dash without looking at them? I can't in any of my vehicles.

I absolutely develop tactile memory of the stereo and A/C control panels.

> even voice can be distracting when you have to repeat variations of the same command five times and keep checking whether it actually works.

This is a silly argument, given the number of arguments that I’ve seen drivers participate in.


If I'm understanding the study correctly, it's not that having one of these systems in your car results in you — at all times — being more distracted than if you had pot/alcohol in your system. Rather, when you are actively engaged in a task (eg, play song on Spotify), you are worse at lane centering and maintaining follow distance.

That is not as bad because you can choose when to start playing a song, so that you do it when traffic is calm. If you're driving under the influence, that's affecting you the whole time.

It would be interesting to see how these results look when the driver is performing tasks on a non-touchscreen setup. I can easily change the radio station in my car using steering-wheel mounted buttons, but changing the AC/heat is quite difficult without looking (in my Ford CMAX) because of the uniformity/location of the buttons. I'd guess the results would be similar to using a touchscreen setup.


I wish the title can be changed.

The idea that Android Auto or Carplay is worse than drunk driving is dangerous and disingenuous and complete misinformation.

That's what the title implies. It's not what the study found.


> you can choose when to start playing a song

I’m willing to bet a significant number of people don’t wait till it’s safe to use the system.

> If you're driving under the influence, that's affecting you the whole time.

Could it be argued that driving under the influence is only affecting you when you have an at fault accident that you otherwise wouldn’t have had.

I’m willing to bet the overwhelming majority of driving under the influence events are ordinary and uneventful.


I'm not sure why you're getting downvoted, I even see police officers doing this.

Yeah, the way they designed this test makes it meaningless in the real world.

Sadly many phone functions have no physical equivalent. Things like navigating on gps and SMS have just enough voice functionality to get you to try and use them, but not enough to not be distracting from driving. This is why I disabled siri!

I've been taking a puff at the wrong time. Should have waited for the traffic to clear a bit :p

Title is just misleading, as is often the case with this kind of studies nowadays.


Does anyone excercise any critical thinking skills with these headlines.

Driving drunk is far far far more distracting and deadly than using carplay. Every Uber and lyft driver out there are running mapping apps. Every recent car is shipping with these (my wife's sister listens to her playlist on drive to work with it and uses the map).

I've seen drunk drivers. Carplay has nothing on booze. In an overseas country an ex-pat wanted to drive me drunk back to where we were going to be working. Within 2 minutes I'd taken the keys and started driving myself because he was all over the road - we had to stop so he could throw up.


“A new study says driver reaction times using this tech were worse than motorists with alcohol or cannabis in their system.” Alcohol impacts more than reaction times, but a drunk driver can actually be paying attention to the road. On the the other hand someone looking at a screen at best can use peripheral vision which may not be enough. Touch screens at the bottom of the console are sadly common and unusually bad.

There are also varying levels of drunk. At the legal limit in some places, some people might show very little impairment at all. It's impossible to compare without saying what level of alcohol or cannabis they're talking about and for what person with what tolerance. People react differently and consume different amounts.

That’s a reasonable objection. The best data I could find is a ~2% increase in reaction time from a 10% increase in BAC. That suggests the range from legally drunk to unconscious is surprisingly narrow at least in terms of reaction times.

I did not really dig into it, but these devices might actually be strictly worse from a reaction standpoint. At least until the driver is loosing consciousness.


It can be hard to finish a complete sentence when drunk. In case it wasn't clear for anyone, you still shouldn't do it.

Actually, distracted driving and chemically impaired driving are two separate, orthogonal things. They exist independently of the other. A driver can be afflicted with either, both, or neither. One can be measured objectively (blood toxicity), the other cannot.

We might read reports indicating that X number of accidents were caused by distracted driving, but distracted driving is very hard to prove because it is easy to deny. The only statistics we have on it are either when a driver admits to not paying attention, or when there is overwhelming evidence for it, such as video.

I think we can easily assume that most at-fault drivers are not going to willfully admit to liability for causing an collision (especially if a party to the collision was hurt or killed), so it is safe to say that distracted driving is highly under-reported and underrated as a threat to road safety.


Massive difference between driving at 0.08 and driving while drunk enough that your body’s survival is dependent on it violently expelling alcohol from your system.

yes, in theory the point of the limit is that it should be safe

Also, people who are driving drunk might also be using CarPlay. It's not as if being drunk makes you immune to the distractions of CarPlay.

> Does anyone excercise any critical thinking skills with these headlines.

Critical thinking means carefully examining evidence, even if it challenges "common sense".


Just in case I wasn't obvious enough, the issue with drunk driving is around much more than distraction. Drunk driving involves failures of judgement and comprehension, drowsiness and vision impacts (literally will not see a pedestrian, will not register a red light, will fall asleep and have a head on collision). In addition, driving while drunk is a continues impact. If you drive an hour and a half home wasted, you are going to be at risk / causing risk that ENTIRE time.

The article headline and narrative tries to generate a "carplay worse than drunk driving" narrative when this is totally unsupported.

First, the slow reaction time was measured while the subjects were told to carry out tasks on carplay. These tasks were very specific. Like use the BBC iPlayer app (ugh!) to play a specific radio station. Find and play summer by Calvin Harris, send text messages etc. AND the setting were such that you could not use voice for some of this.

OK - summer is in a ton of song titles, so finding summer by calvin hariss is going to take some typing. Making users use a THIRD party app on carplay is another whole issue.

So yes - if you are a total idiot who disables voice control and is trying to type out complicated things on carplay and send messages using text - you are definitely going to be temporarily distracted. They presented little evidence that while in use fatalities increase because of this risk.

My own observation is that folks stopped at stoplights are HIGHLY distracted by both their phones and infotainment.

I use voice control which works well, and I only do three tasks - message wife I'm heading home, get directions to home (driving time and detours)and play podcasts. I say this while waiting to pull out of a parking garage. In terms of actual road risk this in minimal.


It’s true people don’t individually spend a lot of time per interaction, but in country soon to hit 100 million touch screen cars, that’s easily millions of hours of distracted driving per year.

For a general risk comparison it’s percentage of time people are drunk driving x drunk risk vs percentage of time they interact with these devices x device risk. So, figuring out had bad things are during use is a very important factor.


This study is a like micro-benchmark, and it makes sense to say that phone distracted driving can lead to a more acute loss of road awareness vs. being drunk, because your eyes might not even be on the road.

This study is pretty garbage. They tested 20 people, and they didn’t even pick 20 people who used CarPlay. They picked 20 random people who didn’t use CarPlay, briefly taught them how to use CarPlay, and then found that those people couldn’t use it well. Imagine testing how distracting texting was for someone who had never used an iPhone before the test.

How long do you think it might take for a "carplay-novice" to become sufficiently accustomed to the tech that they're not as dangerous as a drunk driver? A few days? Weeks? Even if it's only a few hours, is a few hours of drunk-equivalence justifiable?

> Imagine testing how distracting texting was for someone who had never used an iPhone before the test.

I understand analogies aren't meant to be strict equivalencies, but there is a large difference in severity here. Failure to operate an iphone correctly probably wouldn't cause a life threatening situation. Failure to operate a car correctly is far more concerning.


I'd say about as quick as it takes someone to get used to a Model 3's off to the side screen.

Also highly depends on the cars setup. I've had some rental cars where the screen was terrible and definitely was a distraction. Example being Audi and their button controls for carplay.


I own two cars, a VW and a Toyota.

Here in Australia European vehicles aren’t required to put the indicator stalk on the right hand side of the steering column.

So I’m constantly indicating my intention to turn with the windscreen wipers in both cars, and constantly retraining myself, then I swap cars again.

Adding fatigue and other distractions doesn’t help.


Totally agree. I’ve driven nothing but CarPlay cars over the last several years (I used to rent a lot of cars), and when I drive a non-CarPlay enabled car now I’m super distracted.

I found Android Auto dangerous because it works great normally, but when it stops working I tend to get a little panicking and intuitively try to "Fix" it while I'm driving. And that happened too often so I quit using it all together.

A terrible 'feature' of CarPlay is asking by voice to have an app launched, and having Siri reply "I'm sorry, I can't do that while you're driving." It's because the app doesn't have a CarPlay implementation. It's an app that just needs to be running in the foreground do that I can get into the company parking garage. Now, I've had to take my eyes off the road (I do this at any red light that I hit between the interstate and the deck - but it still moves my focus...) find the app on the phone and tap it.

Why do you need to lauch that app while you’re driving if you only need it to get into the parking garage? Can’t you pause at the garage, launch the app and enter?

For some reason, it can take nearly a minute for the app to get its bluetooth and GPS bearings all settled. All the while a line is forming behind me..

So sure, I can do that. But it'd be better if the pain was felt by Apple rather than co-workers.


Computer screens are incredibly distracting regardless of the make or brand. It's basically a backlit distraction generator.

As a side note, I'm not a big fan of LCD displays in cars. I prefer analog gauges/dials/knobs, with minimal illumination for night time. At night, the less light you have inside the car, the easier you can see outside. Plus your eyes will be more well adjusted.


LCDs around the gauge cluster seem to encourage the display of extraneous information and eye candy, from making what should be a simple gauge extra gaudy and shiny, to adding useless images and readings all around (look at these leaves! Your car is so efficient!).

My friend had an old Saab with the "Black Panel" button, which turned off all internal lights save the speedometer. If other readings became relevant (e.g., running low on gas), that gauge or light would illuminate. I drove a Peugeot 208 a few years ago with a similar function. I wish I could find a vehicle with something similar, but design is clearly moving in the opposite direction.


You could have a similar thing in the future if OLED panels in cars become feasible.

until driving anywhere with other people and their 2 million lumen led/laser headlights

A similar study was made for phone calls, with similar results.

The counter argument is that while it is easy to let go of the phone when things get tricky. You can't sober up at will.


>The counter argument is that while it is easy to let go of the phone when things get tricky.

And the counter-argument to that is that things can get tricky faster than you would expect. So tricky that even the time it takes for you to react and put your phone down or drop it still wouldn't give you enough time to prevent an accident.

People need to stop paying attention to phones while driving, period.


There's also pressure from phone calls that you don't get when you're talking to someone in the vehicle: people on the other end can't see the traffic situation, so they don't know to shut up and let you drive, and there's social pressure on the driver to not let their surroundings distract them away from the phone call.

I have several times in my life thrown my phone out of reach with no regard for who's on the call

They understood, later. They weren't necessarily happy but when you explain to people "do you want me alive or do you want me to talk to you", their self-interest seems to kick in, at least.


I don't think it's as easy to let go as people think. Phone apps are designed to be engaging. If you watch footage of distracted drivers who cause crashes, they don't realise their brain has disengaged from the vital task. There is a harrowing example video here: https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2016/oct/31/lorry-driver...

If that were true, how do explain studies (like this one) that show that hands-free devices also hurt reaction time worse than alcohol? Drivers don't even need to "let go of the phone". They're looking straight ahead, and they have to respond to a big red rectangle, right in their field of vision. Yet somehow, they're still worse at it than people who have been drinking.

The fix for phone are certainly easier, just disable all controls if the phone is moving at more than 10km/h while paired to the car and disable all incoming notification.

The 90's was the pinnacle of in-car UX. No distracting touchscreens, no "eco" gauges that are more distracting than useful, just nice buttons and dials that let you do and know what you need and nothing more.

I agree, and I just hate touch screens in general. (I don't drive a car, but I still hate touch screens anyways.) Keyboard is much better. Not just car, but many other things (including television) have bad UX, too. They try to make a better UX but make a bad UX instead. I try to work against that writing my own software, although I cannot change the hardware; I can merely to suggest how to make a better one. For one thing, you should include a numeric keypad (if not a full keyboard); it can be useful for implementing many kind of functions.

Honda were still doing this well into the 2000s. Only their most recent models have, sadly, succumbed to the trend.

Everyone is focusing on the touchscreen, because those are easy to point a finger at (pun intended). In fact, this study confirmed what we already knew from previous research: even hands-free phone interfaces are terrible for driving.

The best hands-free reaction time in this study was still more than twice as bad as the effect from alcohol.

You simply can't operate a motor vehicle and a computing/communications device at the same time without seriously affecting your competency at both. Humans aren't built for that kind of multitasking. I don't anticipate any new technology which might change that.


You probably spend less than a few percent of your driving time navigating a touchscreen. And most of the time drivers will allot those tasks to reduced risk moments such as when stationary at a traffic light.

When you’re drunk, you’re drunk every second of the journey. You’re drunk at every intersection, you’re drunk at every pedestrian crossing, you’re drunk every meter of motorway.

They’re not comparable.


You can and it's rather simple. You just need physical buttons and a deterministic interface, like pretty much every phone had until the iPhone.

Pick a number to call from your contacts, or type it out, or even pick a contact and type out a whole message using one hand without as much as a glance at the screen.


Android Auto is my favorite buggy product. When it works, it's amazing and I keep on using it even though it fails in every possible way.

When it's working well it's not distracting at all. When you run into bugs it's very distracting.


The bugs are mostly, in my experience, just cumulative jank resulting from excessive Android uptimes. Android, being about on-par with Windows 95 in terms of software quality, needs a daily reboot to keep itself running.

I once had my mom complain to me that nothing on her phone was working properly and discovered that it hadn't been restarted in something like ten months.

I can ask Siri for directions when driving but then sometimes the phone needs to see my face to unlock it, which is counterintuitive. There should be an option for a verbal password

You can unlock yourphone before you plug it in. There is a security feature that will require the phone be unlocked when connected to a USB device after not having been unlocked for a period of time.

Change it here:

Settings>Touch ID & Passcode>Allow Access When Locked


One of the major benefits of CarPlay is that this is avoided, because there's a secure link established between the phone and car at setup time.

Its similar on Android. On my pixel, I'll often encounter this when trying to start music playin. Eg, "OK Google, open Spotify", only to have it reply "you need to unlock your phone for that".

I don't know what took me so long but I recently realized how many Bay Area drivers are driving while using their phones (I don't have a car). Every single day there are multiple accidents on 101 despite it being a straight line and traffic rarely going over 30mph at peak hours. How can this be? Easy: silicon valley professionals reading their email.

I drove around Spain for 2 weeks and didn't see a single car accident of any kind. More manual cars (occupy your hands) and fewer digital distractions. I saw 3 accidents on my way back from Oakland airport to my house.

US drivers need to get off their damn phones. It's so dangerous.


Google glass was the best solution to this IMO. Able to look through the display and still see the road and more focus on voice control.

We need advancements in integrating with computers already so that our brains can interface with them directly.


Not sure why you're being downvoted, it sounds like an excellent idea on first glance. Have a pair of glasses (not necessarily Google but something similar) that you use when driving, that is connected to your car. Now you get information right where you're looking so you can always look at the road.

Plenty of cars project a HUD into the windshield itself. This seems like the better option.

With glasses you could see warnings about cars passing on the right when you're looking to the left, so I still would like to see at least a prototype of the car HUD glasses.

It's totally possible to make touch screen displays that can be operated in bumpy environments without looking at them -- Aviation has been using them for some time. Instead of clicking on buttons, interactions only require touching entire regions (eg. top and bottom half) of the screen when input is requested. (See apps like XCSoar, LK8000, etc.)

The problem is that they are either hard to learn to use, or really ugly. It's always really bugged me that Google Maps on a phone (or in Android Auto) has tiny buttons that are impossible to click for the most basic tasks.

It doesn't have to be this way.


What's I found even more frustrating about google maps is that one time it promted me to perform a survey about the app itself. During a trip, whilst driving. It was not a local guide thing or a play store thing. It redirected to a page inside the maps app which was just impossible to use whilst driving (and not much better when not driving also). Needless to say I didn't finish the survey. I wanted to complain about the fact I even got the survey in-app. But later there was also no way to get back to it.

I suspect this goes for all input based on a touch screen. Touch screens are horrible interfaces, which caught on because they're generic and fully reconfigurable by each app. But this reconfigurability pushes them into your low-level OODA loop, using your attention in imperceptible spurts rather than taking advantage of muscle memory, doubly so when the UI code is laggy.

I'm certainly not condoning the practice, but texting and driving wasn't a serious public hazard until everyone moved away from T9. T9 was a deterministic input method, and while sure maybe you would look at the message before sending, each individual letter required little attention.

Back before smart phones / GPS navigation / etc took off I did a two month cross country trip using a Garmin 60CSx (handheld GPS with hard buttons) as a live map. In car-cities, I held the unit in my shifting hand, and checking the map was effortless as it was always in the state I expected it to be.

Holding the touch screen in your hand, and thus having more predictable positioning, is a setup up from using a touch screen mounted on the car's interior, which is moving relative to you from road bumps etc. Even worse are OEM touchscreens that have poor response. I'd love for more studies to be done on this subject to create better data, but I also wonder how much it will be fought by car manufacturers that have gone all-in on touchscreens in the center console (which seems to be all of them).


I don't think the technology here is the problem. It's the implementation.

Most screens are placed in the middle of the dashboard, when it should be close to the gauges or nearly in front of you.


What I got from cars ads (and also YouTube videos) is the infotainment system seems like a flashy selling point for the car. And not any system is decent, even the expensive cars have shitty large touchscreen that's laggy or/and has too many layers to go through in its user interface. It's the worst car trends in recent years.

I have a CX-5 and think they did a good job with the infotainment even if it was a bit delayed. The touchscreen is off when car is in motion and there’s steering wheel buttons + a rotating dial. tbh I just interact with Siri to set music or waypoints and maybe occasionally glance for gps.

Apparently Mazda recently went through a bunch of studies to make the infotainment systems less dangerous, the result was that they're switching back to physical dials and bringing screens into more natural field of vision. I must say that I am somewhat seduced by the (at least seamingly) data driven process.

Source https://www.motorauthority.com/news/1121372_why-mazda-is-pur...


Touchscreens are simply cheaper. No need for switches, design of the controls, all the wiring, etc.

On a similar note, what happened to cars that would lock you out of interacting with the infotainment system whenever you were driving faster than parking lot speeds? I assume this was some regulatory/safety requirement.

I remember cars used to either implement that feature, or outright prevented you from even pairing a new Bluetooth device when your car was in Drive. But then all of a sudden it seemed like automotive companies stopped and touchscreens became acceptable. Does anyone know what changed?


Nothing, they still lock out those features. They have never locked out basic controls like changing inputs or start/stop/play, or some deep menu navigation. They do lock out things like typing a GPS destination, but not selecting a pre-set.

The NHTSA guidelines are here: https://www.nhtsa.gov/sites/nhtsa.dot.gov/files/distraction_...


I refuse to connect android auto. Now, whenever I charge my phone in the car, multiple prompts continuously pop-up to enable android auto.

It's become unnecessarily dangerous if I'm using GPS for directions because now I have to continuously press "decline" and "not now" so I can see my directions. This has happened multiple times in a minute. Very dangerous - merely ceasing to ask after the tenth decline would probably save lives.


Have you tried a charge only cable that lacks the data pins being hooked up?

No, that is definitely something I need to try. Thanks!

The study is fundamentally flawed and the article (headline claim in particular) is nonsensical.

The study is flawed in that it lacks a control group and is missing information about relevance. You say people don't see the road when you tell them to look at a screen. Wow, color me shocked. But if you're going to demand change, you need to be able to put that fact into context. Like, what are the measurements when asked to perform the same action in the built-in head unit? And is this a contrived example, or does it represent typical use.

The headline has a similar problem. We already know that driver reaction time is effectively infinitely high for distracted driving. If the driver doesn't see the obstacle then they aren't just slow to react, they don't react to it at all... because why would they react to something that they don't realize exists? So you're comparing that fact to delays caused my chemical impairment? How? A driver with phone integration will have no impairment at all if he's not looking at the display at precisely the time of the incident, but intoxication has a persistent effect.


The worst is the Tesla interface. It's great to look at and if you're sitting in the car parked, but if you're trying to drive it is terrible. To be honest, stuff like this should be legislated away, it's too dangerous.

Even something as mundane as turning on the fan requires several seconds of concentration because it's al. It's not like a regular car with buttons and knobs that you don't have to think about. You have to actively look for it as you drive which makes it very dangerous to use.

As for Apple Carplay, I have as well, and it feels like the designers don't actually use it for driving. Some decisions are absurd. For example, a lot of the buttons you need to press are on the opposite side of the display (at least for cars with drivers on the left side). It's totally dumb that they are on the opposite side that needs to be hunted for.

In terms of safety, big knobs and buttons are best.


Voice commands with Natural Language Processing (which Tesla cars now support) is far superior than any knobs or buttons because you keep your eyes on the road and hand on the steering wheel.

I can pretty much toggle or set any media and climate settings(even open the glove box) after a software update last December.


This seems to be an argument in favor of Tesla's full-stack approach of pairing high-capability infotainment with advanced driver assistance features. Tesla's data on collisions suggests the driver assistance works to reduce incidents.

Using Apple CarPlay or Android Auto to add higher-capability infotainment to an otherwise unassisted vehicle does seem obviously risky and the data from the linked study appear to confirm that. My own anecdotal experience is that I am very distracted by Apple CarPlay in rental cars (my own vehicle is too old to be compatible). This is especially because the user interface is slow, with too much emphasis on animation rather than immediacy, and with too many behaviors that require waiting, such as resetting the map back to full-size.


This is one place where voice assistants could help. They can’t right now because they’re not good enough to rely on: I for one don’t trust Siri to do what I tell it, or even know how, without taking my eyes off the road to make sure. So the CarPlay system ends up underutilized because I can’t afford doing that.

There is also the privacy issue. Using Google voice in the car requires I turn on its always-listening functionality. Nope!

Is there no “press a button to listen” or “wait until you hear a wakeword” option?

There is in my car, but Google at least forces users to accept the "OK Google" functionality when they agree to the voice activation disclaimer. So once you enable that, the phone is always listening for "OK Google".

We merged comments hither from https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=22646564, which points to a cnet.com article about this study and was originally the thread on the front page. We kept its title.

The touch screen aspect is just one thing. At least in my car (2018 Seat Leon, i.e. VW group) the connection is very unstable, it doesn't retry on it's own, then sometimes there's no sound, sometimes there's no picture, then sometimes it reboots. All with a good USB cable. Starting the connection almost always takes 2-3 attempts. I'm guessing bad timeouts in the software.

It's highly distracting when you have bad UX and bad programming. And good software quality can't be legislated, in my experience at least the more regulation there is the worse the SW gets, because it gets written by bureaucrats, not software minded people.


What happened to those screens with dynamic 3D buttons (like bubble wrap). I guess it didn't pan out.

Edit: Found a video from 2014. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7tcawBX41VU


CarPlay obviously isn’t meant to be safer than not using tech in a car, it’s suppose to be safer than using a cell phone while driving which is most everyone at one time or another. So what masters is how safer it is using the system vs a handheld phone.

One of the most absurd consequences of CarPlay is the USB car ports are often 1 amp. So my phone dies faster. Combined with Apple forcing you to use Apple Maps, makes me cynical of basic technology. This is partly what makes it more distracting.

You can use Google Maps on CarPlay now, I believe.

Yes, third-party navigation has been supported for two years now.

I guess wireless charging systems provide a benefit here because they decouple the data transfer from the charging.

You bought a product from a company known to lock people into their services then complain about this.

Was it the constant commercials that sold you? The fruit logo?


Was this peer-reviewed? How does it compare with normal radio head units?

Anecdotally, I find CarPlay to not be distracting at all, mainly because I don’t fiddle with it while driving. I set up things ahead of time or I have a front seat passenger to help.


Doesn't surprise me. Used Android Auto for a while, in my opinion it's a terribly designed interface for the purpose.

I miss tactile buttons and knobs that you could develop muscle memory around.


I've driven a BMW that featured a HUD for the driver and I think that would be a great way to display a lot more information that CarPlay and co do now on the console.

This argument keeps recurring and I find it quite annoying. How is CarPlay or AA anymore distracting than having a tiny phone screen on your dashboard? Also, I think its more likely that the notifications for certain apps are distracting as opposed to the software in general which is incredibly useful (Maps, Spotify etc).

I don't understand the motivation behind these studies. Is there some financial gain to be made from this. Or perhaps I'm being too cynical.


> How is CarPlay or AA anymore distracting than having a tiny phone screen on your dashboard?

I don't think anyone is making that argument.

The argument is that you shouldn't be using your phone via any interface while driving, because it isn't safe.


If it wasn’t going to cause problems for people in trains or busses, I would suggest a law requirering phones to turn off/hibernate if they detect that they are moving faster fast than 10km/h.

I'd be satisfied with simply stepping up police manpower for enforcement, and then much stronger punishment. e.g. for first-time violators, license revocation for a year, after which the individual is allowed to re-apply as a new driver, with all of the testing/license restriction/insurance implications of being an entirely new driver.

It’s not a law, but iOS can automatically turn on “Do not disturb while driving.” It can turn on automatically either when it detects that you’re going over a certain speed or when you’re connected to Bluetooth or CarPlay.

The second option would be able to distinguish if you are driving your car or riding in someone else’s car or on public transportation. Assuming that you’re not paired to your non primary vehicle.


> don't understand the motivation behind these studies

1.3 million traffic fatalities yearly (worldwide).

Good to know if/when new tech distracts the drivers and adds to that 1.3 number?


Surprised to see cannabis reaction times slower than alcohol for driving. I wonder how they controlled for it, and whether the test accounted for high people driving slower and taking fewer risky moves like lane changes, turning corners without looking for pedestrians or speeding through yellow lights. Reaction time alone can be mitigated through adaptive behaviour, but not if you're not even looking at the road.

I fully agree. But: I believe in many cases this is because, with both Android Auto and Apple CarPlay as I have used both for extended periods, they are simply buggy as hell.

Some car vendors have better implementations than others, but I frequently see things happen like the connection suddenly cuts or audio playback becomes choppy or sometimes the dash crashes entirely.

I suspect if it was less buggy it would be a lot less distracting, personally.


These types of studies look so biased as they will only get covered in news channel if the results are anti-tech. There is no mention of how much distraction would "changing a radio station" or "adjusting car heating" will cause - and benchmarking against those. Good that this came out during the current COVID-19 outbreak as the political brass is distracted enough to even consider this.

I recently tried CarPlay in a rental (for a long road trip). I gave up. Way too frustrating to use. Very distracting.

For instance, one stretch thru Dallas, my phone and CarPlay, which were connected, were giving me different turn-by-turn instructions.

Cliche: person with two watches doesn't know what time it is.

So I disabled CarPlay and just used aux-in for the audio from my phone.


That’s an odd result. CarPlay is just a way to mirror your phone’s screen and audio to the car’s screen. If you have one map app showing maps and giving directions then it would be the same on both screens and only one audio stream. Perhaps if you had two map apps running at the same time you might get different directions.

Been driving hire cars with huge touch screen UIs. Utterly awful and feels way way more dangerous than talking on the phone.

Look down, interact, wait to see if you hit the right spot, try again, wait to see visual confirmation of successful input. Often all the above fleeting between road and panel.

Voice interaction is pure UI cancer in a number of ways and doesn't help


First of all, I saw this on another site (I have forgotten where, unfortunately) that actually showed the comparisons of CarPlay/Android Auto usage vs some other situations. However, it seems like a significant oversight that things like "changing the radio station" and "adjusting the climate control" were not in the comparison. I'd really like to see what that looks like.

Second of all, it's horribly misleading to compare the degree to which using these systems impairs your driving to the degree to which being under the influence of alcohol or drugs does so. I have CarPlay, and while I fully recognize that paying attention to it to change things pulls my focus away from the road, I'm typically doing so for no longer than 2-5 seconds. Being drunk or high lasts much longer than that, and there's no way to just turn it off. Hell, even texting or a phone call takes orders of magnitude longer than that.

I don't know if there's a particularly scientific way to do this, but my gut feel is that a more useful number would be something like the integral of distractedness over time—so find the length of time of a typical phone call, and multiply the phone call amount of distractedness by that, and assign some reasonable length to the total car journey, and multiply the drunk/high distractedness by that. Then compare that to the CarPlay/Android Auto distractedness multiplied by 2-5s times some typical number of times people adjust it during a trip of the designated length.


it's definitely important to distinguish between perfect, typical, and worst case usage scenarios. when I use android auto, I typically set up navigation and a playlist while the vehicle is stationary. (unfortunately I can't usually do this while parked nose-in, because using the backup camera crashes android auto four out of five times in my car.) I have to imagine this is way safer than any kind of intoxicated driving. on the other hand, I'd bet someone dragging google maps around to see the next turn on the highway is just as bad as driving with a BAC around 0.1. it's definitely a flaw in the study that they gave specific instructions to the drivers instead of just observing their natural behavior.

What if you don't have CarPlay, trying to use Apple Music is a total joke with the worst UX. Even not driving it's a PIA to use.

I've recently upgraded to 2010 model car with a multi-function display after driving a 2005 Honda for the past 5 years. I've never been more distracted behind the wheel. The novelty has worn off a bit now so I don't look so much, but I can only imagine how distracting a full smartphone being there would be.

I think the carploy interface via controls on the wheel is good on my '17 subaru, but I absoloutely agree it is NOT for use by the driver when in motion. It requires a lot of focus, and if I can't get siri to do something for me on it then I wait until my next stop.

To me the biggest issue with all this is that it uses the center console screen for almost all data display - I much prefer using a phone mount and putting things just to the side of my steering wheel so I don't have to take my eyes off the road.

woof touchscreens (though the chart makes it seem like voice is a problem too)

the US navy is removing some screen-based controls after an accident -- this is less about distraction and more about the complexity of the interface, but still

https://www.theverge.com/2019/8/11/20800111/us-navy-uss-john...

mazda the car company made a similar move last year

https://www.motorauthority.com/news/1121372_why-mazda-is-pur...


I hate how the new Android Auto update is so unintuitive. In the past, the "Ok Google" was one blind click away in my car (Acura). Now, it is the last option in the screen where you will have to first navigate and click. What a bummer...

One of the tasks was finding a song on Spotify. Siri is pretty good at this with the right command (ex Play ‘KV Crimes’ by Kurt Vile on Spotify). But trying to find that via Spotify UI is nearly impossible while driving.

I could never get it work with my VW Polo headunit. Was just plain confusing and that was on a Samsung A70 while my daughter's iPhone worked out of box.

Is it just me, or does this source seem very unreliable?

I would say navigating a menu system takes more concentration than reading and tapping a msg with auto correct. Thus this study makes sense

The only way my car will have a big screen on the dashboard is if it's an option to 100% ignore oit while driving.

In what dosage? Can I get 30mg of CarPlay? Can we get 300ml of Android Auto?

Without comparable dosage this is meaningless.


Distracting by design. All these devices are designed to get your attention. That is how they make money.

It is insane that car companies can add whatever they want to make cars ever more dangerous.

This may be naive, but I wonder if switching the display to e-ink would help?

I really can't envision how anyone could think these toys would do anything other than distract drivers.

Truth is driving requires one's full attention and any distraction is going to reduce safety, even in a self driving car.

I don't really find it remarkable that it's worse than pot, or alcohol within the legal limit though. They didn't offer much info on the weed thing and that surely depends on how "high" one gets, but if they kept it within the same range as the legal limit of alcohol (a small toke or two) that's no surprise at all.

I worked for years designing and building custom cars. Honestly, that giant screen in a Tesla is the craziest thing I've ever seen in a car, and I've helped build some pretty crazy cars.


> Honestly, that giant screen in a Tesla is the craziest thing I've ever seen in a car

Same here. I cannot understand how people are fine with it. I once had to drive a car who had it's GPS display further down (where the AC controls usually is, basically) so you had to glance down towards the shifting stick to be able to see where you are going. That feels like a similarly crazy idea. I'm lucky my car has a display that is as far up it can be without blocking the view out of the windshield.


You should actually test drive one. I've yet to meet an owner ask for more buttons or knobs. In fact, it's the opposite. With the new NLP voice commands, eyes and hands stand where they need to be.

It's not me I worry about most.

When I was growing up my father was a "body man". He repaired wrecked cars. There was rarely a time when he had no work. He took me to his shop from the time I was born, so I grew up around crashed cars. I started working with him when I was 14 years old. By that time he was building custom cars in Hollywood, CA and was running George Barris's shop and I worked there and learned the trades and went on to run my own shop until I was in my 30s. By then I was building advanced driving systems for the severely handicapped. Mostly quadriplegics with very limited mobility who used power wheelchairs. We developed "Zero effort driving systems". Quite a few of my customers had been injured in automobile crashes.

All that is to say I have quite a bit of experience with people who've been in accidents. The fact is they can happen to any of us who drive or are in a car. But there are people who get into lots of them and it's accurate to say many accidents are the cause of distracted drivers, and that's often true even when it's not the driver's "fault". Accidents can be avoided by attentive drivers.

So the question to ask is "do touch screen displays increase driver distraction" and it's hard for me to imagine that huge screen in a Tesla does not. If a driver used it only once while driving that would have to qualify.

When we add to that the false sense of safety of a "self driving car" we further decrease the driver's tendency to pay full attention to the safe operation of a vehicle.

I worry about me making a mistake while driving, but not near as much as I worry about others on the road with me.

All that said, the Tesla is an amazing example of what tech can do in that arena and I admire what they've done. But I'd never put my or anyone else's safety in jeopardy by using that tech on public roads while I was in the driver's seat.


I have and I find it absolutely bewildering how someone is fine with a touchscreen on any car, I'm of the opinion it should be illegal, and seems the industry/regulation is catching up with that now. It's impossible to learn where to press because there is no physical buttons to learn by.

Meanwhile, my car has physical buttons for everything and it took me about a week before I could control and navigate everything without looking. I could never do that with a touchscreen. I've had a smartphone since 2010 and still I cannot even type without looking, been practicing that for 10 years!


> my car has physical buttons for everything and it took me about a week before I could control and navigate everything without looking.

> It's impossible to learn where to press because there is no physical buttons to learn by.

You just pointed out glaring disadvantages with buttons/knobs. Situational Touchscreen Controls + Natural Language Processing voice commands is far superior. It's also more intuitive.

I can literally tell it "Turn on driver seat heaters to 3 bacons" and it will set the seat heater to the max setting (1-3).

https://youtu.be/mV8h2doorrc?t=58

If you're telling be voice commands (that actually work) are inferior when it comes to buttons, I don't know what to tell you.


I'd like more physical controls for the wipers. Assuming I can't get a retrofit of the normal rain-sensor that everyone else uses so successfully.

I agree with you. But unfortunately the majority of the car users on the road aren't prepared to be "drivers". They don't like driving and just want to be somewhere quickly with minimal effort. Any extra distractions, conveniences and safety features that further hide away the responsibility are welcome. If you happen to be in an older, smaller car or, gasp, a naked human outside of a car then god help you.



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