Siri Safety: Why Driving Hands-Free Is More Dangerous Than You Think
According to AAA, three out of four drivers believe that hands-free technology is safe to use while driving. I know I
do did. This may not be the case however; new research conducted by the Foundation for Traffic Safety, these features may actually be increasing mental distraction- because they are imperfect.
Dr. David Strayer of the University of Utah evaluated and ranked popular voice-command interactions for the level of cognitive distraction caused in the drivers using heart-rate monitors and equipment designed to measure reaction times. The levels of distraction were quantified into five categories. For example, category 1 would be listening to the radio where talking on a hand-held or hands-free phone is a category 2 distraction.
The results were as follows:
- The accuracy of voice recognition software significantly influences the rate of distraction. Systems with low accuracy and reliability generated a high level (category 3) of distraction.
- Composing text messages and emails using in-vehicle technologies (category 3) was more distracting than using these systems to listen to messages (category 2).
- The quality of the systems’ voice had no impact on distraction levels – listening to a natural or synthetic voice both rated as a category 2 level of distraction.
In a separate analysis of Apple’s Siri, the researchers determined that hands and eyes-free use of Siri constituted a category 4 level of distraction.
Precision Driving Research with Dr. Joel Cooper evaluated the most common voice-based interactions, changing radio stations and initiating a phone call, on six different automakers’ interfaces. From best to worst on the same five point scale, Toyota’s Entune® system was only rated a 1.7 category distraction- which is similar to listening to an audio book. By contrast, Chevrolet MyLink® was a 3.7 category distraction. Hyundai Blue Link was rated 2.2, Chrysler Uconnect™ was 2.7, Ford SYNC with MyFord Touch® was rated 3.0 and Mercedes COMAND® was 3.1
The good news is that this research may help guide manufacturers as they improve their voice-command systems to maximize driver safety in the future. Until then, be careful out there on the roads- while using voice-to-text is safer than actually texting, that doesn’t mean it is actually safe… your message can probably wait.