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  • Are connected cars creating more driver distraction?


    As ADAS technology and additional in-car connectivity advancements become part of mainstream fleet requirements we question if all this additional tech is creating more driver distraction versus attempting to make vehicles safer.

    Research from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) suggests that 66.8% of new cars are now offered with at least one self-activating safety system. Many fleets are also now starting to specify ADAS to new vehicles as standard in a bid to improve road safety and reduce costs, but should we also be considering the possible implications in terms of additional driver distraction?

    New studies show drivers find warning systems distracting

    Drivers with access to features such as automatic breaking or lane departure warning systems are admitting that they are significantly more distracted than those without the technology.

    According to a survey recently conducted in the US from a firm named Esurance, 29% of drivers found warning sounds from advanced driver assistance systems ADAS distracting. A quarter of respondents even admitted to deactivating at least one feature since implementing new tech.

    64% of drivers with semi-autonomous or in-car technology say they have been occasionally or frequently distracted, whilst just 55% of drivers without these features reported distraction.

    58% admitted to experiencing some level of distracted driving from texting or navigating whilst driving, with mobile devices being the leading cause for the distraction.

    The above evidence in addition to reliance on such safety systems therefore begs the question ‘are connected cars distracting drivers and giving them a false sense of security to look away from the road and distract their attention elsewhere’?

    Infotainment technology needs to be managed

    There was also a study last year from the AAA who found that infotainment technology on the dashboards of new vehicles is making drivers take their eyes off the road and hands off the wheel for dangerously long periods of time.

    Within their research each of the drivers of cars and light trucks took their eyes off the road and hands off the wheel whilst using the infotainment systems. It was found that programming a destination into the GPS navigation system was the most distracting activity, which took an average of 40 seconds. During which time a car travelling at just 25mph could have travelled the length of four football pitches. When you consider that drivers who take their eyes off the road for just two seconds double their risk of a crash this is cause for great concern.

    Such systems are providing drivers with the ability to use social media, email and text whilst behind the wheel as well as offering interactive touch screens, voice commands and additional buttons either on the steering wheel or dashboard. Worryingly these integrated systems are adding more layers of complexity which all amount to more time with driver’s eyes off the road.

    When utilising voice commands drivers will look away from the road less, but this tends to be offset by the increased amount of time that drivers then spend interacting with the systems. We also need to consider the fact that even processing language and conversation whilst keeping your eyes on the road can decrease your brain’s visual processing my up to 37%.

    What can you do to protect your fleet?

    Can technology stop the problem that is has caused? There are many systems out there to help manage driver usage of in-car technology and we would recommend only utilising systems that lock out the ability to use many functions whilst the car is moving, in particular, navigation systems and texting.

    Overall it is considered that the benefits of ADAS technology outweigh the concerns of distraction, but it is important to be aware of exactly how the system you specify works and to take time to play with the settings and address any possible increased distractions.

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