Study Claims Using CarPlay While Driving is More Dangerous Than Texting

A new study conducted by driving academy and UK independent road safety charity IAM RoadSmart suggests that using Apple CarPlay while driving is more dangerous than texting or holding a phone to converse.

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Drivers reacted 36 percent more slowly when using the voice function of ‌CarPlay‌, and 57 percent more slowly when using ‌CarPlay‌'s touch functionality. Comparatively, texting caused 35 percent slower response times, and using a hand-held phone caused 46 percent slower response times.

The study found that using ‌CarPlay‌ or Android Auto with touch control caused drivers to struggle with controlling the vehicle's position in the lane and keeping a consistent speed and headway to the vehicle in front. Some of the study's other findings:

  • Participants failed to react as often to a stimulus on the road ahead when engaging with either Android Auto or Apple ‌CarPlay‌ - with reaction times being more than 50 per cent slower
  • Reaction time to a stimulus on the road ahead was higher when selecting music through Spotify while using Android Auto and Apple ‌CarPlay‌
  • The impact on reaction time when using touch control (rather than voice control) was worse than texting while driving
  • Use of either system via touch control caused drivers to take their eyes off the road for longer than NHTSA (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration) recommended guidelines
  • Participants underestimated by as much as 5 seconds the time they thought they spent looking away from the road when engaging with Android Auto and Apple ‌CarPlay‌ via touch control.

It's worth noting that this ‌CarPlay‌ test involved just 20 participants, with 20 other participants using Android Auto, which is a small test group and may not be representative of the usage experiences of all ‌CarPlay‌ owners.

It's also not clear how familiar the participants were with the ‌CarPlay‌ interface before beginning the test or whether they had used it prior to the testing, but IAM RoadSmart says there was a "comprehensive familiarization process."

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The test consisted of asking participants to complete three drives on the same simulated test route: a control drive, a voice-enabled drive (interacting with ‌CarPlay‌ via voice commands) and a touch-enabled drive (using ‌CarPlay‌'s touch controls only).

The route included two music-related tasks accessing music on Spotify and BBC radio while following behind a car (2.4 miles), two navigation tasks to a restaurant or a petrol station in a simulation of erratic motorway traffic (5.6 miles), and a figure eight loop done while reading texts and making a call (two miles).

Each participant was asked to react by flashing their lights when a red bar appeared on the screen, which was done to measure reaction time to an external event. These red light flashes appeared at four times during the drive when the driver was engaged with ‌CarPlay‌.

Driving performance was measured by reaction time to the red bar, behavior measures like speed, lane position, and headway, eye gaze behavior, and self-reported performance.

Given the results of the study, IAM RoadSmart is calling on industry and government to "openly test and approve" ‌CarPlay‌ and Android Auto to develop "consistent standards that genuinely help minimize driver distraction." The full distracted driving study conducted by IAM RoadSmart can be read on the company's website [PDF].

Related Roundup: CarPlay

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Top Rated Comments

hikin_man Avatar
55 months ago
Since Siri cannot understand a simple request 80% of the time, I can understand how this could lead to a distracting environment. Attention is required to make sure the AI can understand your request, or transcribe a dictated message. There are also so many bugs in this system, it usually requires troubleshooting when using CarPlay.
Score: 46 Votes (Like | Disagree)
TonyC28 Avatar
55 months ago
I should read the study before offering an opinion, but I won't...
You will not convince me that using your voice to control something is more dangerous than looking down at your lap and texting.
Score: 32 Votes (Like | Disagree)
svandive Avatar
55 months ago
This has to be the most non-intuitive findings I have ever seen. I simply can not hold any validity to these findings.
Score: 26 Votes (Like | Disagree)
haruhiko Avatar
55 months ago
How about BMW iDrive, Mercedes MBUX, Lexus’s trackpad, Audi’s touchscreen? Are they just using Apple CarPlay as a clickbait?
Score: 17 Votes (Like | Disagree)
DoctorTech Avatar
55 months ago
Too many variables and too small of a sample size to draw any meaningful conclusions. Were the CarPlay participants already familiar with CarPlay or were they trying to figure it out as they went? Also, I would seriously LOVE to see how these slowed reaction times compare to carrying on a conversation with an in-vehicle passenger and dealing with children in the backseat.
Score: 16 Votes (Like | Disagree)
avanpelt Avatar
55 months ago
Based on my experience, using Siri via CarPlay can be incredibly frustrating. That's especially the case when trying to listen to a radio station.

For example, if I say, "Listen to <call letters of radio station>", it only works about 30% of the time. Sometimes, it works on the first try, other times, it plays some artist that has two of the radio station's call letters in his name (JD). From time to time, it plays something totally off the wall and I have no idea how it connected the call letters of the radio station that I spoke to what it's playing.

Since I can't see the transcription of what Siri *thought* I said with CarPlay (like I can on iPhone or iPad), I'm not really sure how to compensate for the fact that it didn't do what I wanted. Do I need to annunciate a particular letter more clearly? Do I need to slow down when I'm speaking? I have no idea. Sometimes, I have to repeat the same command five or six times before it finally does what I wanted it to do. Am I distracted during that time because my level of frustration with Siri is growing each time it gets it wrong? Probably.
Score: 10 Votes (Like | Disagree)