New AAA Study Indicates Apple CarPlay and Android Auto Are Less Distracting Than Automakers’ Infotainment Systems

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Apple CarPlay and Android Auto: Lower cost, arguably better, and now safer, what’s not to like?

A study conducted by AAA shows that Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are a bit less distracting than the “native” systems that automakers themselves offer. The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety worked with the University of Utah to evaluate five modern vehicles to determine the amount of visual and mental demand placed on drivers by Apple CarPlay and Android Auto versus the automakers’ built-in infotainment system options. The study concluded that “Both CarPlay and Android Auto generated an overall moderate level of demand while the native vehicle systems created very high levels of demand for drivers.”

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Android Auto and Apple CarPlay allow mobile device users to connect their mobile devices with a power cord, or in some new cases wirelessly, to the vehicle’s audio system and information screen. Once connected, the two apps allow an occupant to view and have limited interaction with the information that would appear on their mobile device. In practice, there are two common ways that drivers and occupants put this to use. First, with navigation apps that reside on the phone. Google Maps is a popular choice and is now even offered by Apple. This navigation program is free to users and many find it to be superior to the navigation systems that automakers themselves offer as in-dash options. Since most automakers don’t charge for the integration, BMW being one notable exception, the navigation system isn’t just better than the one the automakers offer, it is also “free.” And updates are constant and free. Google Maps also knows you if you use it. Say you recently used the Chrome browser to search for 555 Main street in a certain town recently. When you get into your vehicle and enable Android Auto that address will already be one that is pre-loaded for you to navigate to. This saves time. And that ease of use seems to be reflected in the AAA study results.


“Google and Apple are proving that it is possible to reduce the level of demand in-vehicle infotainment technology places on drivers,” said Dr. 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.”

AAA’s study also emphasized that not all automakers integrate Apple CarPlay and Android Auto identically. The functions that get locked when the vehicle is in motion vary from manufacturer to manufacturer. “AAA is sharing this new research with automakers and system designers to help advance the dialogue about ways to improve the functionality and design of new infotainment systems and the demand they place on drivers,” said Marshall Doney, AAA’s president and CEO. “By working together to leverage the design benefits of CarPlay and Android Auto, and addressing the issues that prevent the software from effectively interacting with a vehicle’s system, automakers and smartphone companies can improve the driving experience and limit distraction on the road.”

Another way drivers and occupants put Android Auto and Apple CarPlay to use is with music apps. Whether it be Pandora, or some other music service, the vehicle’s screen offers you the ability to select and change your channels or options easily. Like with the Nav, this is an app you already have on your device. Using it in your vehicle costs you no more money, unlike satellite radio.

Apple CarPlay and Android Auto work very well as substitutes for pricey optional navigation and infotainment systems automakers charge thousands for. Since most mobile device users (and who isn’t one?) already know and love the way their phones operate, they find the systems easier to use than the captive systems automakers invent and then re-invent every few years. That AppleCar Play and Android Auto are proving to be less distracting to use and perhaps safer, is just icing on the cake.