According to a study by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, built-in infotainment systems are a lot more distracting to drivers when compared to Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. As part of the study, the organisation teamed up with researchers from the University of Utah to evaluate five 2017-2018 MY vehicles – Honda Ridgeline, Ford Mustang, Chevrolet Silverado, Kia Optima and Dodge Ram 1500.

What they discovered was it took less time to complete complex tasks with systems from Apple and Google – 24% (five seconds) faster when making a call and 31% (15 seconds) faster when programming a navigational route.

Those few seconds are significant as the organisation points out that “drivers who take their eyes off the road for more than two seconds double their risk of a crash,” adding that distracted driving is responsible for more than 390,000 injuries and 3,500 deaths every year.

“Google and Apple are proving that it is possible to reduce the level of demand in-vehicle infotainment technology places on drivers,” said David Yang, executive director of the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety.

“While improvements are necessary before any of the systems can be considered safe to use while driving, 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,” he added.

The researchers used a rating scale to measure the visual (eyes-off-road) demand, cognitive (mental) demand, and the time it took drivers to complete a task using the systems, which ranged from low to very high levels of demand.

“Automakers are experts at building safer cars, but Google and Apple are more skilled at building safer vehicle infotainment technology. By leveraging their strengths, the two industries must work together to significantly improve the design, functionality and safety of these technologies,” said Marshall Doney, president and CEO of AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety.

Despite phone-based systems being less distracting than built-in systems, the AAA still urges drivers not to use them while driving. Even with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto requiring less overall demand and time to complete a task, drivers still took up to 33 seconds to complete a navigation task compared to 48 seconds for native systems.

“Drivers must use common sense when it comes to technology inside the vehicle. Just because it is available, doesn’t make it safe to use. Smartphone companies and automakers must collaborate to reduce the potential for distraction that technology places on drivers. The airline industry doesn’t compete on safety, and neither should automakers. Motorists deserve better,” said Jake Nelson, AAA director of traffic safety and advocacy.