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Complex infotainment systems are putting driver lives at risk, says AAA

Charles Fleming, Los Angeles Times on

Published in Automotive News

American drivers are demanding increasingly complex infotainment systems when they shop for new cars.

But a new AAA study says they're putting themselves at risk if they use the systems while driving.

The news is worse for luxury car buyers. The infotainment systems that could prove most distracting are those installed in some of the most highly prized vehicles.

The Tesla Model S, Audi Q7 and Volvo XC60 are among models determined to require "very high" infotainment system demands on the driver, the AAA study concluded. So were the Honda Civic Touring and Ridgeline models, Mazda 3 Touring, Subaru Crosstrek Premium and Ford Mustang GT.

At the other end of the spectrum, said to require only "moderate" driver demand, are the systems on the Chevrolet Equinox, Hyundai Santa Fe, Lincoln MKC, Ford F250 XLT and Toyota's Camry, Corolla and Sienna.

It's all a matter of how much technology is available, and how intelligently it is deployed.

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"Some in-vehicle technology can create unsafe conditions for drivers on the road by increasing the time they spend with their eyes off the road and hands off the wheel," said Dr. David Yang, executive director for the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety.

Drivers are more at risk, Yang said, if the infotainment system isn't designed with safety in mind.

"When an in-vehicle technology is not properly designed, simple tasks for drivers can become complicated and require more effort from drivers to complete," Yang said.

In its study, the AAA asked 120 drivers ages 21 to 36 to help study 30 different 2017 model vehicles. Observing the subject drivers, researchers studied how long drivers took their eyes off the road to use infotainment systems, and how much mental energy they expended.

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