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New cars increasingly crammed with distracting technology

Published: Thursday, October 05, 2017 @ 12:04 AM
Updated: Thursday, October 05, 2017 @ 12:02 AM


            In this image from video, Jake Nelson, AAA’s director for traffic safety advocacy and research drives one of the test vehicles used in the study in Washington, Wednesday, Oct. 4, 2017. Infotainment technology automakers are cramming into the dashboard of new vehicles is making drivers take their eyes off the road and hands off the wheel for dangerously long periods of time, a study being released by AAA on Oct. 5 says. (AP Photo/Bill Gorman)
In this image from video, Jake Nelson, AAA’s director for traffic safety advocacy and research drives one of the test vehicles used in the study in Washington, Wednesday, Oct. 4, 2017. Infotainment technology automakers are cramming into the dashboard of new vehicles is making drivers take their eyes off the road and hands off the wheel for dangerously long periods of time, a study being released by AAA on Oct. 5 says. (AP Photo/Bill Gorman)

The infotainment technology that automakers are cramming into the dashboard of new vehicles is making drivers take their eyes off the road and hands off the wheel for dangerously long periods of time, an AAA study says.

The study released Thursday is the latest by University of Utah professor David Strayer, who has been examining the impact of infotainment systems on safety for AAA's Foundation for Traffic Safety since 2013. Past studies also identified problems, but Strayer said the "explosion of technology" has made things worse.

Automakers now include more infotainment options to allow drivers to use social media, email and text. The technology is also becoming more complicated to use. Cars used to have a few buttons and knobs. Some vehicles now have as many as 50 buttons on the steering wheel and dashboard that are multi-functional. There are touch screens, voice commands, writing pads, heads-up displays on windshields and mirrors and 3-D computer-generated images.

"It's adding more and more layers of complexity and information at drivers' fingertips without often considering whether it's a good idea to put it at their fingertips," Strayer said. That complexity increases the overall amount of time drivers spend trying to use the systems.

The auto industry says the new systems are better alternatives for drivers than mobile phones and navigation devices that were not designed to be used while driving.

The vehicle-integrated systems "are designed to be used in the driving environment and require driver attention that is comparable to tuning the radio or adjusting climate controls, which have always been considered baseline acceptable behaviors while driving," said Wade Newton, a spokesman for the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers.

But Jake Nelson, AAA's director for traffic safety advocacy and research, said drivers testing all 30 of the 2017 model year cars and light trucks took their eyes off the road and hands off the wheel while using infotainment systems. The test drivers used voice commands, touch screens and other interactive technologies to make calls, send texts, tune the radio or program navigation all while driving.

Clearly automakers haven't worked hard enough to make the systems quick and easy to use, Nelson said. Researchers rated 23 of the 30 vehicles "very high" or "high" in terms of the attention they demanded from drivers. Seven were rated "moderate." None required a low amount of attention to use.

Programming a destination into in-vehicle GPS navigation systems was the most distracting activity, taking drivers an average of 40 seconds to complete the task. At 25 mph (40 kph), a car can travel the length of four football fields during the time it takes to enter a destination. Previous research has shown that drivers who remove their eyes from the road for just two seconds double their risk for a crash.

Under pressure from industry, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration in 2012 issued voluntary safety guidelines to automakers for dashboard technology instead of enforceable safety standards. The guidelines recommend that automakers lock out the ability to program navigation systems while a car is moving. However, the ability to program navigation while driving was available in 12 vehicles in the study.

The guidelines also recommend automakers prevent drivers from texting while driving, but three-quarters of the vehicles tested permit drivers to text while the car is moving. Texting was the second-most distracting task performed by test drivers.

Drivers looked away from the road less when using voice commands, but that safety benefit was offset by the increased amount of time drivers spent interacting with the systems.

AAA said drivers should use infotainment technologies "only for legitimate emergencies or urgent, driving-related purposes." It also urged automakers to block the ability to program navigation systems or send texts while driving. Automakers should also design infotainment systems so that they require no more attention to use than listening to the radio or an audiobook, it said.

Nearly 70 percent of U.S. adults say they want the new technologies in their vehicles, but only 24 percent feel that the technology already works perfectly, according to an opinion survey conducted for AAA.

"Drivers want technology that is safe and easy to use," said Marshall Doney, AAA's president and CEO, "but many of the features added to infotainment systems today have resulted in overly complex and sometimes frustrating user experiences for drivers."

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Follow Joan Lowy on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/AP_Joan_Lowy

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Mueller investigation: Lawyer pleads guilty to lying to investigators in Russia probe

Published: Tuesday, February 20, 2018 @ 3:26 PM
Updated: Tuesday, February 20, 2018 @ 3:26 PM

Robert Mueller - Fast Facts

An attorney pleaded guilty Tuesday to lying to the FBI in the agency's investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election and its possible ties to President Donald Trump's campaign.

The charges against lawyer Alex Van Der Zwaan are the latest in special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation.

READ MORE: Who is Rick Gates and why was he indicted by Robert Mueller?Who is Paul Manafort, the man indicted in Robert Mueller’s Russian investigation?What are Paul Manafort and Rick Gates charged with?MORE

Special Counsel Robert Mueller Files First Charges

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House Oversight Committee launches probe into Rob Porter's employment

Published: Wednesday, February 14, 2018 @ 2:40 PM

Who is Rob Porter?

The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee is investigating the White House’s employment of staff secretary Rob Porter in the wake of allegations that he abused his two ex-wives, committee chairman Rep. Trey Gowdy, R-South Carolina, said Wednesday.

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Porter submitted his resignation Feb. 2.

Gowdy told CNN that the committee launched a probe Tuesday night into Porter’s employment and when White House officials knew about the domestic violence allegations levied against him.

Porter has denied any wrongdoing.

"We are directing inquiries to people that we think have access to information we don't have. You can call it official. You can call it unofficial,” Gowdy told CNN. “I'm going to direct questions to the FBI that I expect them to answer.”

Porter resigned Feb. 2 after his ex-wives went public with allegations of domestic abuse and said they spoke with federal authorities about the claims, prompting critics to question why he had remained employed in the Trump administration. The allegations held up a background check needed to grant Porter a security clearance for work in the White House. Officials said he was working on an interim security clearance.

The process to get Porter his clearance was ongoing at the time of his resignation.

“How do you have any job if you have credible allegations of domestic abuse?” Gowdy asked on CNN. “I am biased toward the victim.”

>> Related: White House ‘could have done better’ handling Rob Porter allegations, spokesman says

Porter’s first wife, Colbie Holderness, and his second, Jennifer Willoughby, told the FBI about the alleged domestic violence in January 2017, after they were contacted while Porter was applying for his security clearance, according to The Washington Post.

White House officials defended Porter in the immediate aftermath of the allegations, and President Donald Trump has faced criticism for what critics called his lack of care for the victims and his focus on the fact that Porter has denied the claims.

“I was surprised by (the allegations), but we certainly wish him well, and it’s a tough time for him,” Trump told reporters in Washington on Friday. “He did a very good job when he was in the White House, and we hope he has a wonderful career. … It was very said when we heard about it, and certainly he’s also very sad now. He also, as you probably know, says he’s innocent, and I think you have to remember that.”

U.S. President Donald Trump speaks with White House Secretary Rob Porter (C) and Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT) (R) as they return to the White House December 4, 2017 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Chris Kleponis-Pool/Getty Images)(Pool/Getty Images)

Holderness told The Daily Mail that Porter was verbally abusive throughout their relationship, which started in 2000, but that things escalated after they were wed in June 2003. She said Porter kicked her during their honeymoon and during a 2005 vacation in Italy, punched her in the face.

Willoughby, who married Porter in November 2009 and separated from him in early 2010, told The Daily Mail that Porter was verbally abusive.

Willoughby obtained a protective order against Porter in June 2010 after she said he violated their separation agreement and refused to leave her apartment, according to court records obtained by The Daily Mail. In the complaint, Willoughby said Porter punched in a glass door while she was locked inside the apartment, but left after he heard she was on the phone with police.

She told the Mail that in December 2010, he dragged her out of a shower while she was naked in order to yell at her.

The couple was divorced in 2013.

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Veteran resident dies, receives patriotic farewell from nursing home

Published: Saturday, February 10, 2018 @ 12:20 PM

File image of the American flag.
Christopher Bruno, Freeimages
File image of the American flag.(Christopher Bruno, Freeimages)

A veterans nursing home in South Carolina honored a resident who died this week with a patriotic farewell that has gone viral.

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In a Facebook post, Laura Dorn thanked the Richard M. Campbell Veterans Nursing Home in Anderson for taking such good care of her father, Doug Timmons, who had Alzheimer's disease and was a resident of the facility for the last three years. Dorn wrote that her father died early Thursday morning and the staff took the time to honor him for his service as his body was removed from the facility. In a video that Dorn posted, Timmons' body, draped with an American flag, is wheeled out as staff line up and a musical tribute plays.

In a Facebook review of the nursing home, Dorn thanked the "caring, accommodating and selfless" staff who she said treated her father like family. Dorn wrote, "They treated my Dad with dignity and respect from the first moment there until he drew his last breath, then sent him off with a hero's procession."

The video has received more than 3 million views.

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Trump thanks Putin for expelling U.S. diplomats

Published: Friday, August 11, 2017 @ 4:16 PM

President Donald Trump walks to Marine One before departing from the White House on August 4, 2017 in Washington, DC. President Trump is traveling to Bedminster, N.J. for his summer break. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
Mark Wilson/Getty Images
President Donald Trump walks to Marine One before departing from the White House on August 4, 2017 in Washington, DC. President Trump is traveling to Bedminster, N.J. for his summer break. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)(Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

President Donald Trump on Thursday said that he is “very thankful” that Russian President Vladimir Putin decided to expel hundreds of U.S. diplomats, telling reporters in New Jersey that the decision will help the U.S. cut down on salaries.

>> Read more trending news

“I want to thank him because we’re trying to cut down our payroll, and as far as I’m concerned, I’m very thankful that he let go a large number of people because now we will have a smaller payroll,” Trump said, according to The Washington Post. “There’s no real reason for them to go back. … We’re going to save a lot of money.”

The comments were Trump’s first addressing Putin’s decision last month to expel 755 diplomats and technical personnel from the U.S. Embassy and consulates in Russia, according to The Post.

Trump’s proposed budget for fiscal year 2018 included a 29 percent cut of State Department funding, NPR reported.

But White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said in an email to The New York Times on Friday that the president was making a joke.

“He was being sarcastic,” she told the newspaper.

Still, some lawmakers questioned Trump’s decision to praise Putin.

“After weeks of silence regarding Vladimir Putin's outrageous expulsion of hundreds of U.S. embassy personnel, President Trump once again let Russia off the hook and instead insulted America’s diplomats,” Rep. Eliot Engel, D-New York, the ranking member on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said in a statement.

“No doubt, the President's staff will eventually try to clean up after the parade by claiming it was a joke, but there's nothing funny about this,” he said.

According to Politico, “many, if not most, of the positions cut will likely be those of locally hired Russian staffers. The local staff who are let go will likely get severance payments, but cost savings are possible in the long run.”

Unidentified sources told the news site that most of the U.S. diplomats made to leave Russia will be moved to different posts.

Putin’s decision to kick American diplomats out of the country came in retaliation for sanctions placed on Russia by the U.S. Trump signed the bill, which passed with strong bipartisan support and required congressional approval to lift the restrictions, although he criticized it as being “seriously flawed.”

Vladimir Putin - Fast Facts

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