Technology has become so mobile that we bring it everywhere we go, including behind the wheel of our cars. Thus, the cell phone in our pocket has become the main target of anti-distracted driving advocates, as making and taking phone calls while driving, as well as texting, have arisen as legitimate distractions from the task of driving.

One solution automakers have been developing over time would have us using your voice to control technologies in the car, the assumption being that you're much safer performing a task in the car if yours hands are on the wheel and your eyes on the road. That assumption, however, might not be true according to a recent study by the American Automobile Association, aka AAA.

The researchers behind the study, which is titled Measuring Cognitive Distraction in the Automobile, developed a standard metric by which they could rate and compare the level of cognitive distraction while performing certain tasks while driving. The results showed that while talking to a passenger, using a hand-held phone and making a hands-free phone call all created similar levels of cognitive distraction, using a text-to-speech system to send a text or email actually ranked higher on the scale. Indeed, the text-to-speech task ranked high enough to be classified as a Category-3 level of distraction, whereas the others were all classified Category-2.

The researchers remarked, "The assumption that if the eyes were on the road and the hands were on the steering wheel then voice-based interactions would be safe appears to be unwarranted. Simply put, hands-free does not mean risk-free." They go on to warn their findings apply equally to any voice-based interaction with a vehicle, not just speech-to-text systems. So behaviors we've already become accustomed to, like asking SYNC to play an artist or iDrive to set the navigation's destination to home, could be more distracting than holding our smartphones up to our ears.


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  • 34 Comments
      vizcarmb
      • 1 Year Ago
      Warning the sky is blue. I repeat the sky is blue
      PatrickH
      • 1 Year Ago
      I agree with this. It's infuriating to try and do voice commands only to have the system not recognize your words or do the wrong thing and make you start over again.
      mikemaj82
      • 1 Year Ago
      Wow, it took a study to realize that? Anything that takes away from your focus on the road is going to make driving unsafe. Same thing with so called "hands-free" devices. Really? They may be hands-free, but they're still making your driving focus-free.
      johnb
      • 1 Year Ago
      You can find a study to support any argument.
      Andrew
      • 1 Year Ago
      THE SAFEST WAY TO DO THIS IS WIH ONSTAR BECASUE ONSTAR YOU TALK TO A HUMAN. With crappy @$$ POS Sync it breaks down just like the FORD it is in and just like crappy Microsfot products like the XBOX or Windows lol.
        Jake
        • 1 Year Ago
        @Andrew
        Pull your panties out of your ass and shut up
          Andrew
          • 1 Year Ago
          @Jake
          you're tool!
          Jake
          • 1 Year Ago
          @Jake
          Whatever. It makes your mama happy.
        • 1 Year Ago
        @Andrew
        [blocked]
        • 1 Year Ago
        @Andrew
        [blocked]
      • 1 Year Ago
      [blocked]
        Matt
        • 1 Year Ago
        Just because we will never be 100% safe does not mean we should abandon all REASONABLE steps to make driving SAFER. Texts and emails can wait, and if they cant, pull over. Your text message is not worth putting my life at risk. Sorry but I'm more important than that text your about to send.
          • 1 Year Ago
          @Matt
          [blocked]
      Papi L-Gee
      • 1 Year Ago
      Moral of the story: Your emails and texts can wait.
      mbukukanyau
      • 1 Year Ago
      Nannie studies
      knightrider_6
      • 1 Year Ago
      That explains why BMWs pathetic voice recognition never works correctly - they want to make sure that the driver gets frustrated and stops using it.
      Judah Richardson
      • 1 Year Ago
      All the driver distraction near-misses I've had have been due to people actually in the car with me, not electronics.
      Jason Krumvieda
      • 1 Year Ago
      This is a bad title "Study suggests voice-controlled technology in the car is less safe than thought" at first glance it looks like thought controlled technology is the safest. And Andrew down there is bitter about a RROD on his Xbox
      stonehunte
      • 1 Year Ago
      If you can't talk on a cell phone and drive at the same time, you are not capable of even basic multitasking. If that is the case, you probably shouldn't be driving. The government needs to do something useful and quit nannying us to death...
        ksrcm
        • 1 Year Ago
        @stonehunte
        I said many times I would not mind people even driving reasonably drunk as long as our DL test is the same as in Finland. Good luck with that. Until then, Government needs to fix its mistakes. In this case, not having a requirement to obtain DL like they do in Finland. Therefore, it will be some kind of ban on distracting devices in the vehicles. As far as I'm concerned, a simple "you can't have a phone or Internet connected device while driving" is good enough. Yes, it cannot be enforced. Yes, if you create a problem and we find a phone or Internet connected device in your car that was active when you created a problem, your a*s is ours and it will not be pretty for you. Which is exactly how laws should be - punishing for DOING something, not because you MIGHT do something.
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