THE latest in-vehicle infotainment systems are impacting significantly on driving performance, according to a new study by safety experts.
Smartphone devices such as Android Auto and Apple CarPlay are affecting stopping distances, lane control and a motorist's response to external situations, says IAM Roadsmart.
The organisation found that reaction times at motorway speeds increased average stopping distances to between four and five car lengths.
The research found that a driver using touch control to operate Apple CarPlay could see their reaction time impaired by up to 57 per cent.
Similar use of Android Auto devices delayed reaction time by 53 per cent.
The study also found that drivers took their eyes off the road for as long as 16 seconds while driving - equivalent to a distance of more than 500 metres at 70 mph - and using touch control resulted in reaction times that were even worse than texting while driving.
The group says that such smart technology is impairing reactions times behind the wheel more than alcohol and cannabis use.
Neil Greig, policy and research director at IAM RoadSmart, said: "Driver distraction is estimated to be a factor in around a third of all road collisions in Europe each year.
"While previous research indicates that Apple CarPlay and Android Auto perform better than more traditional buttons and controls, the results from this latest study raise some serious concerns about the development and use of the latest in-vehicle infotainment systems.
"Anything that distracts a driver's eyes or mind from the road is bad news for road safety. We're now calling on industry and government to openly test and approve such systems and develop consistent standards that genuinely help minimise driver distraction."
During the study, which was undertaken by the Transport Research Laboratory on behalf of IAM RoadSmart, the FIA and the Rees Jeffreys Road Fund, drivers completed a series of three drives on the same simulated test route to assess the level of impact of Android Auto and Apple CarPlay.
On the first run, drivers did not interact with the system. On subsequent runs, drivers interacted with the system using voice control only and then using touch control only.
Both methods of control were found to significantly distract drivers, however touchscreen control proved the more distracting of the two.
While many drivers realised the system was causing a distraction and modified their behaviour by, for example, slowing down, performance was still adversely affected with drivers unable to maintain a constant distance to the vehicle in front, reacting more slowly to sudden occurrences and deviating outside of their lane.
Mr Greig added: "While we would like to see a review of these systems in the future, we'd encourage owners of vehicles fitted with these systems to use them in the safest possible way, including setting everything up before starting a journey."