Posted on: 09/10/2014
Any hands-free technology that keeps your eyes on the road must be safe, right? Well, not according to the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety.
Three out of four drivers believe that hands-free technology is safe to use, so you may be surprised to learn that these popular new vehicle features may actually increase mental distraction, according to new research by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety. This research can serve as guidance to manufacturers who increasingly market hands-free systems as safety features. The good news for consumers is that it is possible to design hands-free technologies that are less cognitively distracting, according to the research.
The results, which build on the first phase of the Foundation’s research conducted last year, suggest that developers can improve the safety of their products by making them less complicated, more accurate and generally easier to use - a point AAA hopes to use in working with manufacturers to make hands-free technologies as safe as possible for consumers. While manufacturers continue their efforts to develop and refine systems that reduce distractions, AAA encourages drivers to minimize cognitive distraction by limiting the use of most voice-based technologies.
“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 ahead,” 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.”
Using instrumented test vehicles, heart-rate monitors and other equipment designed to measure reaction times, Dr. David Strayer and researchers from the University of Utah evaluated and ranked common voice-activated interactions based on the level of cognitive distraction generated. The team used a five-category rating system, which they created in 2013, similar to that used for hurricanes. The results show:
1. The accuracy of voice recognition software significantly influences the rate of distraction. Systems with low accuracy and reliability generated a high level of distraction.
2. Composing text messages and emails using in-vehicle technologies (category 3) was more distracting than using these systems to listen to messages.
3. The quality of the systems’ voice had no impact on distraction levels - listening to a natural or synthetic voice both rated as a high level of distraction.
Source: AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety
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