Apple CarPlay, Android Auto winning UI, distracted driving battle over automaker systems, says AAA

Automakers' native infotainment systems are clunkier, slower and more prone to distract a drive relative to Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, according to AAA study.
Written by Larry Dignan, Contributor

Automakers that build their own native infotainment systems are losing the user interface wars to Apple CarPlay and Android Auto based on distracted driving ratings, according to a study by AAA.

The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety published its sixth annual ranking of infotainment systems and their level of distraction. The rankings are based on drivers performing tasks such as texting, programming navigation and making calls. The goal is to have low demand on the driver when performing those tasks.

In a nutshell, CarPlay and Android Auto were 5 seconds, or 24 percent faster, than a vehicle's native system when making a call and 15 seconds, or 31 percent faster, when navigating.


That latency is critical because drivers who take their eyes off the road more than 2 seconds double their risk of a crash, according to AAA.

The AAA report comes after Ford boosted its JD Power ratings for quality largely by streamlining its Sync system to make it more usable. JD Power noted:

Audio/Communication/Entertainment/Navigation (ACEN) remains the most problematic category for new-vehicle owners. However, this area has improved for the third consecutive year, led by fewer problems with built-in voice recognition systems.

Bloomberg outlined how Ford has been refining its Sync system to cut down on latency and distractions.

CNET Roadshow: Every car infotainment system available in 2018

AAA noted that its research, conducted with the University of Utah, was designed to "determine the amount of visual and mental demand" due to infotainment systems. Researchers found that CarPlay and Android Auto didn't differ much from one another on overall demand.

While CarPlay and Android Auto fared well, AAA did note that the menus that come with native systems can gum up the works.

It's worth noting that no system had low demand on the driver. The best was moderate demand--a fact that highlights plenty of room for improvement.


Overall demand associated with five different vehicles associated with navigation, text messaging, calling and dialing, and audio entertainment using the native, CarPlay and Android Auto systems (Eq.5). The dashed black line represents single-task performance and the dashed red line represents the high demand referent tasks. Error bars represent 95% confidence intervals.A comparison of linear mixed effects models with and without the Vehicle by Task by System interaction indicated that this interaction was significant (X2 (45) = 376.38, p < .01).

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