Think those voice-controlled apps and assistants are doing you a favour and helping you stay focused on the road? Think again, as research from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety found that voice-activated applications can be more distracting than either handheld or hands-free smartphone use.
These voice-controlled apps allow drivers to issue commands. Doing so, they can compose and send text messages, change music, enter destinations into their GPS, and control the vehicle’s attention. But these systems can take a driver’s attention off the road, especially if they are somewhat complex or error prone.
The foundation tested the levels of distraction caused by several factory-installed voice systems and Apple’s Siri. A grading system from level 1 (minimal distraction) to level 4 (high level of distraction) was used to rate various activities. Talking to a passenger was pegged at 2.4, hands-free conversation was close to 2, and voice-activated applications was ranked just above level 3. Siri wasn’t quite so fortunate and was slapped with a 4 ranking.
The report said, “This likely reflects the added complexity when the voice-recognition system is less than perfect. Common issues involved inconsistencies in which Siri would produce different responses to seemingly identical commands. In other circumstances, Siri required exact phrases to accomplish specific tasks and subtle deviations from that phrasing would result in a failure.”
Foundation President Peter Kissinger said that it’s important that car manufacturers design systems that are simple, intuitive and as error free as possible. Doing so allows drivers to focus on the important task at hand and stay aware of their surroundings.