While they are intended to reduce the problem of distracted driving, two just-released studies suggest that voice-activated dashboard systems and smartphones may actually worsen distracted driving.
These two studies, by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety and the University of Utah, paint a troubling picture. These types of systems are supposed to be designed to allow drivers to perform functions that used to require their hands and eyes, by using their voice instead. The theory goes, if a driver can use their voice to operate and tune their music system, make a phone call or send a text message, they will be more likely to keep their eyes on the road and their hands on the wheel.
Unfortunately, many of these systems tend to be so complex and error-prone that operating the system actually ends up requiring more concentration from the drivers, not less. Because of this, there is a possibility that they could make the distracted driving problem even worse than it already is. One study took a look at the voice-activated systems provided in some of the most common vehicles on the road, including those by General Motors, Ford, Chrysler, Toyota, Hyundai and Mercedes. The other study tested Apple’s Siri voice system, which would allow an iPhone user to perform a number of functions, including texting, making posts on social media, and using the calendar, as well as navigate the vehicle, all without having the phone in their hand or even looking at it.
Each of the voice-activated systems received a grade on a scale of 1 to 5, with 1 representing no distraction and 5 representing something comparable to performing complex math problems or memorizing words. The testing was conducted using 162 volunteers, the majority of whom were university students. They were conducted in three settings: a laboratory; a driving simulator; and in actual vehicles as they drove through a neighborhood in Salt Lake City.
Among the systems, Apple’s Siri (the iPhone version) received the worst rating, 4.14. Using Siri, two volunteers using a driving simulator “rear-ended” another vehicle. Among the most common complaints about Siri was that it chose the wrong numbers from personal contact lists, and often garbled text messages. In one case, Siri called 911 by accident, which caused the driver to have to work quickly to stop the call before it went through. Apple later released a statement noting that researchers didn’t test their CarPlay or Siri Eyes Free systems, both of which are specifically designed for use in vehicles.
Among the vehicle-based systems, General Motors’ MyLink system received the worst rating, a 3.7. Some were considered better, but none of the systems were rated less distracting for drivers than having a conversation on a hand-held cell phone. The researchers used their findings to admonish drivers that, just because you can talk to your car doesn’t mean that you should.
Every year, thousands of Texas drivers are killed or injured by drivers who are distracted. If you or a loved one was killed or has been injured in any sort of traffic accident, and you believe it’s possible the driver who caused the accident was distracted at the time, contact our San Antonio car accident lawyer as soon as possible to protect your rights.