Hilmar Dunker is editor-in-chief of Germany's automotiveIT and carIT magazines
carIT magazine recently commissioned a test to see how the infotainment operating systems of the three German premium car manufacturers stack up.
The Doppler Laboratory for Contextual Interfaces at Austria's Salzburg University together with the Auto Club Europe employed 36 specially selected drivers to test the systems of the Audi A3, the BMW 1 Series and the Mercedes A-Class. The result: The car brands are making progress, but they aren't there yet - by a long shot.
Especially when it comes to manually putting in navigation destinations, the testers encountered serious problems. Visual driver distraction was extremely high and a lot of mental energy was diverted from the main driving tasks. In short: No system is really up to the task.
In our test, BMW did best, achieving the highest scores when it came to time spent on operating functions and general visual distraction.
A clear conclusion from the tests was that technology shouldn't be so complex that the driver is distracted from his primary role: driving the car.
That requirement wasn't met by the systems we tested. Maybe a testing scheme with uniform criteria, implemented by the German automobile association (VDA) or other national or international organizations, could be a first step to come to terms with the problem. In any event, more work is required.
By Hilmar Dunker