Drivers Still Distracted by Voice-controlled Apps

Tourists camera phones out of car windowsVoice-controlled apps and other hands-free systems for motorists are still causing significant distractions, according to a report by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety.

While 75 per cent of drivers believe that hands-free technology is safe to use, the Foundations research suggests that these features increase mental distraction if not correctly designed.

While many manufacturers market hands-free systems as safety features, without careful design they can actual prove just as distracting as systems that require physical interaction. The Foundation suggests that by making products less complicated, more accurate and easier to use, the safety of these systems can be greatly improved.

“We already know that drivers can miss stop signs, pedestrians and other cars while using voice technologies because their minds are not fully focused on the road agead,” said Bob Darbelnet, chief executive officer of AAA. “We now understand that current shortcomings in these products, intended as safety features, may unintentionally cause greater levels of cognitive distraction.”

The study found that the accuracy of voice recognition has a significant influence on the rate of distraction, while the quality of the systems voice (whether it is natural or synthetic) has little impact. Using hands-free systems to compose texts or emails was considerably more distracting than listening to messages, while using voice-controlled assistant software such as Apples Siri was even more dangerous.

“Technologies used in the car that rely on voice communications may have unintended consequences that adversely affect road safety,” said Peter Kissinger, president and CEO of the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety. “The level of distraction and the impact on safety can vary tremendously based on the task or the system the driver is using.”