AAA: Using Smartphones While Driving — Not Very Smart

When compared to a new car’s built-in infotainment system, Apple CarPlay and Google’s Android Auto are less distracting because the cloud-based software makes it easier to make calls and program navigation while driving.

But that doesn’t mean using Smartphone-based technology while driving is very smart, says the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety.

In its latest research on distracted driving, the Foundation discovered the Apple and Google systems, on average, were 5 seconds faster when making a call; and 15 seconds faster when programming navigation, compared to a vehicle’s built-in system.

Considering that distracted driving in this country is responsible for more than 390,000 injuries and 3,500 deaths annually, the Apple and Google difference is critical because a driver, who takes his/her eyes off the road for more than 2 seconds, doubles his/her risk of a crash, the Foundation says.

The AAA Foundation teamed with University of Utah researchers to evaluate five 2017-2018 model vehicles to determine the amount of visual and cognitive demand placed on drivers while using CarPlay, Android Auto and the vehicle’s own infotainment system. Drivers were required to program navigation, send texts, place calls, or program audio entertainment using the systems.

Despite the 5-second and 15-second differences, CarPlay and Android Auto still generated an overall moderate level of visual and cognitive demand on drivers, compared to the very high levels of the built-in systems.  But the moderate level of demand by the two Smartphone-based technologies is still enough to cause potentially dangerous distractions, which in turn affects a driver’s concentration behind the wheel.

A low level of demand equates to listening to the radio; a moderate level, to talking on a hand-held or hands-free cellphone; and a high level equates to an industry standard that produces a demand like balancing a checkbook while driving.

AAA is sharing its research with automakers and software developers to encourage them to design less distracting ways that don’t place undue demands on drivers. These systems, however, shouldn’t exceed low demand levels, recommends AAA, and drivers are urged not to use any type of infotainment system for non-driving related tasks.

Even though Apple CarPlay and Android Auto required less demand and time to complete tasks, drivers still took up to 33 seconds to program navigation compared to the 48 seconds using native systems, said AAA. To put this in perspective: at 25 mph, a driver can travel the length of three football fields during the 33 seconds, the Foundation cautioned.

“Google and Apple are proving it’s possible to reduce the level of demand that in-vehicle infotainment technology places on drivers,” said Dr. David Yang, the Foundation’s executive director. “If automakers and software developers collaborate, they can reduce the potential for distraction by improving the safety and functionality of these technologies.”

This research — the 6th in a series — expands upon an October 2017 study where researchers evaluated distraction levels caused by built-in infotainment systems in 10 other 2017-2018 vehicles.

To learn more about the AAA distracted driving studies, visit

The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety is a not-for-profit, publicly funded, 501(c)(3) charitable research and educational organization whose mission is to prevent traffic deaths and injuries through research and education. This research is used to develop educational materials for drivers, pedestrians, bicyclists and other road users. Visit