Archive for August 7th, 2018|Daily archive page

Are Hands-Free Technologies Distracting Your Driving?

AAA research reveals how tools designed to help can be dangerous.

When you’re driving and use your car’s infotainment system to find the nearest restaurant, you likely won’t take your eyes off the road—you’ll probably use the voice-command system.

The prevalence of in-car infotainment and communications technologies is skyrocketing. Drivers use these systems to play music, get directions or even update a social media status. These technologies are often marketed as safe by virtue of being hands-free. But AAA research shows that using voice-controlled systems suppresses brain activity in the areas needed for safe driving, and also hinders performance behind the wheel.

AAA research results

The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety and the University of Utah partnered to study how distracting voice-based systems are for drivers, and evaluated a range of tasks that drivers can perform. A subsequent study examined the visual (eyes-off-road) and cognitive (mental) demand, as well as the time it took drivers to complete a task using the infotainment systems in 30 new 2017 vehicles.

The studies found that:

  • A computer-generated, or synthetic, voice is no more distracting than a natural, human voice.
  • The reliability of a system affects how distracting it is. For example, if you’re audibly composing an email, and the system misinterprets your message, your brain works harder to correct the mistake. The harder your brain works, the more distracted you become.
  • Cars’ systems differ in reliability and the amount of time it takes to complete commands, but all 30 of the vehicles tested produced a moderate to very high demand on drivers—and 77 percent produced high to very high demand. Infotainment systems in the Chevrolet Equinox and Toyota Camry were among the least distracting, while the Ford Mustang and Tesla Model S had two of the most distracting systems.
  • Voice-based smartphone systems used place calls, select music or send text messages were also significantly distracting. Error messages, time to complete an action, complexity and the level of intuitiveness of the devices resulted in Microsoft’s Cortana being the most distracting, followed by Apple iOS’ Siri, and Google Now.

Remember—hands-free is not risk-free

While you’re driving, be aware of the distractions caused by using infotainment systems. Your best option is to limit your interaction with the systems once you begin driving, and use the most mentally demanding features only when parked.

AAA encourages automakers to manufacture vehicles that don’t allow drivers to interact with the systems when the driver shifts out of park. By working together, everyone on the road stays safer.

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