Apple's 'CarPlay' May Raise Car Insurance Premiums

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

on phone while drivingOver the past decade, modern society has become extremely aware of the dangers of cell phone use while behind the wheel of a car. Unfortunately, this awareness doesn't seem to have come with any significant action on the part of drivers to reduce cell phone use overall, and the devices continue to cause accidents and drive up car insurance rates. Apple and Google have both recently announced that they will be premiering new hands-free devices that will interact with users' devices to enable them to continue talking, texting and using apps without looking away from the road for too long, according to Metro Canada.

Apple and Google insist that these devices will help to increase safety behind the wheel, because drivers won't be as distracted as those using handheld devices for the same tasks, according to CBS affiliate WTVR.com. "iPhone users always want their content at their fingertips," said Apple's vice president of iPhone and iOS product marketing, Greg Joswiak, in a statement, "and CarPlay lets drivers use their iPhone in the car with minimized distraction."

Safety Concerns

Many safety experts do not agree with Apple, claiming that the issue isn't the physical act of taking one's eyes of the road or hands off the wheel, but the distraction provided by the use of such devices. WTVR.com cited a Texas A&M Transportation Institute, which found that reaction times of drivers doubled whether they were manually texting or using voice-to-text dictation software, like that used by the CarPlay.

Last year, researchers at the University of Utah found that talking on a handheld phone is only slightly more distracting than talking on a hands-free device, and both were less dangerous than using voice-to-text applications, which require a lot of attention from the driver, according to the news source, potentially resulting in more accidents and, consequently, higher car insurance premiums.

Metro Canada reported that the U.S. vehicle transportation safety agency, the NHTSA, may have an issue with touch screens. Touch screens are known for delays and user confusion compared to physical buttons. "There is a reason jet cockpits don't have touch screens," Greg Horn, industry trends expert, told the news source. "You have this tactile switch. You are instantaneity aware that you have pushed that button, and the function is complete."

An article published in the Journal of Safety Research, "Is a hands-free phone safer than a handheld phone?", compared a number of industry studies to draw conclusions based on the title question. Cell phone users generally, the paper began by acknowledging, present a higher risk to themselves and to car insurance companies - users are 38 percent more likely to be in an accident, and frequent users have a risk that is more than 100 percent higher.

The review concluded that regardless of type - either handheld or hands-free - cell phone use has a negative impact on driver performance. In particular, drivers' ability to detect and identify events was impaired. There were very few cases in which hands-free phones performed better than handheld phones, and in some cases handheld users were observed compensating for their impaired performances by slowing down, while hands-free users failed to make the same compensation.

The paper concluded that, as far as present research is concerned, there isn't sufficient justification to allow the use of hands-free phones behind the wheel of a car. Accidents caused by cell phones of all varieties not only result in needless loss of life, they drive up the cost of car insurance premiums for every driver on the road.