/ Motoring, Technology

In-car technology is starting to get way too distracting

Despite most car buyers going for technological extras, such as in-built entertainment and navigation systems, our latest investigation found that the majority of drivers find these features distracting.

We tested eight different ‘infotainment systems’ from some of the biggest selling carmakers in the UK. Each system was different, from the features onboard to the controls – be it touchscreen, click-wheel (single control dial with a multitude of functions) or an array of buttons on the dashboard.

Our tests were focused solely on the ease-of-use of these systems, both when stationary and when driving.

While the best-rated systems were those fitted in premium-badged brands, like BMW and Mercedes, our dedicated team of testers were overwhelmed by the depth and varying control functions for all of the entertainment, navigation, climate and communication features.

Eyes on the road

We’ve previously had a good moan about modern cars being too technologically advanced for their own good here on Which? Conversation, but our research did find that the above features are what drivers want most.

But are we wise to want them in our cars? We surveyed 1,011 Which? members, finding 241 who already have a car with one of these more advanced infotainment systems. Of these, seven in ten admitted to finding them distracting.

That’s why we’ve developed our own 10-point best practice charter for in-car tech. In the coming months we’ll be presenting this to road safety groups, government bodies and car manufacturers in an attempt to get them to agree to the production of less distracting in-car tech.

Our checklist ranges from advice like ‘drivers shouldn’t need to look away from the road for more than two seconds to operate any single function’, to ‘entering sat nav destinations should be disabled when moving.

So, which in-car tech features do you think are most distracting? And do we need to counter this obsession for complicated infotainment systems in cars?


I believe that the biggest danger is use of phones in cars. I don’t see that hands-free phones overcome the problem and I have had to take action to avoid my car being hit by distracted motorists that were either using hands-free phones or talking to themselves.


The links to “More on this …” seem to be broken in the Which? lead article.


… and “in car features” in the Conversation above.


Should be working now, thanks Em.


Most distracting – Mini – speedo in the centre of the dashboard, is even more difficult to understand when a sat-nav is in the middle of it.

It does get easier once you get to know the car, having a bluetooth interface for music and calls is vital in my opinion.

The worst, for all cars, beyond any shadow of doubt though is Cruise Control. For many many reasons that I have explained before, should be outlawed.

MartynA says:
19 April 2012

As a mini owner – I’m with you on that one – a bad case of ‘form over function’ – but you do have the option of the digital read our in the rev counter.


Deep down, I can’t help but feel that most in-car technology should be discouraged. However, as that isn’t really an option, I encourage any moves towards making interaction with in-car tech easier.

For example, use a sat nav by all means, but make sure it’s mounted on the screen in your eye-line and not blocking your view. Use an MP3 player but set up your playlist before you set off and don’t touch it again. It’s all too tempting to reach over and reply to a text when you’re sat in traffic, but considering the very real dangers it poses, I welcome any laws that make smoking/talking on a phone at the wheel illegal.

Aceparts_com says:
16 April 2012

Anything that takes your eyes from the road is a distraction. Things that take your eyes from the road and shuts down vital brain function whilst driving should be removed from the vehicle entirely. With so much research into how we respond whilst driving and driving whilst distracted, it’s hard to believe that phones (one of the worst offenders) can still be used in a vehicle, whether its hands free or not. Research has proven that vital parts of that brain used for concentration shuts down whilst speaking on the phone (not the same as talking in person). So why haven’t manufacturers invented a device that simply puts your phone into “flight mode” when in the car? No incoming or outgoing calls. Simple as that. Emergency calls will be exactly that, for emergencies, not “can you put my microwave meal on in 10 minutes”!

Sue says:
20 April 2012

It’s simple, do what I do and switch the mobile off when driving, there’s no danger of being distracted then!