Cloudy
47°
Cloudy
Hi 56° | Lo 36°

Voice-operated dashboard technology still risky

  • Russ Martin of American Automobile Association (AAA), is seen on a monitor in a research vehicle skull cap to the research vehicle during a demonstrations in support of their new study on distracted driving in Landover, Md., Tuesday, June 11, 2013.   (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)

    Russ Martin of American Automobile Association (AAA), is seen on a monitor in a research vehicle skull cap to the research vehicle during a demonstrations in support of their new study on distracted driving in Landover, Md., Tuesday, June 11, 2013. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)

  • Dr. Eric Strayer of University of Utah, speaks to reporters , during a demonstrations in support of their new study on distracted driving in Landover, Md., Tuesday, June 11, 2013.   (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)

    Dr. Eric Strayer of University of Utah, speaks to reporters , during a demonstrations in support of their new study on distracted driving in Landover, Md., Tuesday, June 11, 2013. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)

  • Russ Martin of American Automobile Association (AAA), is hooked to an electroencephalographic (EEG)-configured skull cap, during a demonstrations in support of their new study on distracted driving in Landover, Md., Tuesday, June 11, 2013.   (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)

    Russ Martin of American Automobile Association (AAA), is hooked to an electroencephalographic (EEG)-configured skull cap, during a demonstrations in support of their new study on distracted driving in Landover, Md., Tuesday, June 11, 2013. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)

  • Russ Martin of triple A, is assisted by Joel Cooper, left, hooking the electroencephalographic (EEG)-configured skull cap to the research vehicle during a demonstrations in support of their new study on distracted driving in Landover, Md., Tuesday, June 11, 2013.   (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)

    Russ Martin of triple A, is assisted by Joel Cooper, left, hooking the electroencephalographic (EEG)-configured skull cap to the research vehicle during a demonstrations in support of their new study on distracted driving in Landover, Md., Tuesday, June 11, 2013. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)

  • Russ Martin of American Automobile Association (AAA), is seen on a monitor in a research vehicle skull cap to the research vehicle during a demonstrations in support of their new study on distracted driving in Landover, Md., Tuesday, June 11, 2013.   (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)
  • Dr. Eric Strayer of University of Utah, speaks to reporters , during a demonstrations in support of their new study on distracted driving in Landover, Md., Tuesday, June 11, 2013.   (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)
  • Russ Martin of American Automobile Association (AAA), is hooked to an electroencephalographic (EEG)-configured skull cap, during a demonstrations in support of their new study on distracted driving in Landover, Md., Tuesday, June 11, 2013.   (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)
  • Russ Martin of triple A, is assisted by Joel Cooper, left, hooking the electroencephalographic (EEG)-configured skull cap to the research vehicle during a demonstrations in support of their new study on distracted driving in Landover, Md., Tuesday, June 11, 2013.   (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)

Dashboard technology that lets drivers text and email with voice commands – marketed as a safer alternative – actually is more distracting than simply talking on a cell phone, a new AAA study has found.

Automakers have been trying to excite new-car buyers, especially younger ones, with dashboard infotainment systems that let drivers use voice commands to do things like turn on windshield wipers, post Facebook messages or order pizza. The pitch has been that hands-free devices are safer because they enable drivers to keep their hands on the wheel and their eyes on the road.

But talking on a hands-free phone isn’t significantly safer for drivers than talking on a hand-held phone, and using hands-free devices that translate speech into text is the most distracting of all, researchers reported in a study released yesterday. Speech-to-text systems that enable drivers to send, scroll through, or delete email and text messages required greater concentration by drivers than other potentially distracting activities examined in the study such as talking on the phone, talking to a passenger, listening to a book on tape or listening to the radio.

The greater the concentration required to perform a task, the more likely a driver is to develop what researchers call “tunnel vision” or “inattention blindness.” Drivers will stop scanning the roadway or ignore their side and rearview mirrors. Instead, they look straight ahead, but fail to see what’s in front of them, like red lights and pedestrians.

“People aren’t seeing what they need to see to drive. That’s the scariest part to me,” said Peter Kissinger, president and CEO of the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, the group’s safety research arm.

There are about 9 million cars and trucks on the road with infotainment systems, and that will jump to about 62 million vehicles by 2018, AAA spokeswoman Yolanda Cade said, citing automotive industry research. At the same time, drivers tell the AAA they believe phones and other devices are safe to use behind the wheel if they are hands-free, she said.

“We believe there is a public safety crisis looming,” Cade said. “We hope this study will change some widely held misconceptions by motorists.”

AAA officials who briefed automakers, safety advocates and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration on the study’s findings said they want to limit in-vehicle, voice-driven technologies to “core driving tasks.”

The Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers was skeptical.

The automakers’ trade group said the AAA study focuses only on the mental distraction posed by using a device and ignores the visual and manual aspects of hand-held versus hands-free systems that are integrated into cars.

Legacy Comments1

Wouldn't it be fun to run that test with a couple screaming, kicking kids in the back seat.

Post a Comment

You must be registered to comment on stories. Click here to register.