Hands-Free Technology Makes Distracted Driving Worse, Research Shows - Unhaggle

Posted by | October 08, 2014 | News, Trends | One Comment

Hands-Free Technology Makes Distracted Driving Worse, Research Shows

New studies show that voice-activated smartphones and dashboard infotainment systems may actually be turning distracted driving into a bigger problem – despite being developed to prevent it.

Hands-free technology allows drivers to keep their eyes on the road and hands on the wheel by changing the radio station or sending a text message with their voice. However, the major problem is that these high-tech systems are can be complex and prone to errors, which means that they actually require more concentration, according to the studies released earlier this week by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety and the University of Utah.

One of the studies tackled the infotainment systems by testing them in the most common auto brands around: Chevrolet, Chrysler, Ford, Hyundai and Mercedes. The second study focused on the Apple iPhone’s Siri voice system to navigate, send texts, make Facebook and Twitter posts and use the calendar all without looking at the phone.

The voice-activated systems were graded on a distraction scale of 1 to 5, with 1 representing no distraction and 5 being comparable to doing complex math problems and word memorization.

There were 162 university students and other volunteers who acted as guinea pigs for this study. They tested the systems in three settings: a laboratory, a driving simulator and in cars while driving through a Salt Lake City neighbourhood.

There were a few systems that did quite well on the distraction test: Toyota’s Entune received a 1.7 and Hyundai’s Blue Link Telematic System received a 2.2.

The Chevrolet MyLink infotainment system received the worst rating among the infotainment systems – 3.7. Ford, Chrysler and Mercedes’ respective systems also rated as more distracting for drivers than simply talking on a handheld cellphone.

Chevrolet spokeswoman Annalisa Bluhm said that customers demand this type of technology in their vehicles since access to music and calls is a critical part of their driving experience. Chevrolet is looking at innovative ways to provide this experience.

Apple’s Siri received the worst rating of 4.4. During the tests, there were two occasions when drivers using Siri accidentally rear-ended another car. The study used an iOS 7 version of Siri.

Apple made a statement saying that the researches did not use CarPlay or Siri Eyes Free, which were designed for use in cars. However, David Strayer, the University of Utah psychology professor who led the two studies, said that the researchers consulted with Apple before beginning the study.

Strayer notes that using these systems pushes our mental workloads to high levels, making driving more dangerous due to their inherent complexity.

The National Highway Traffic Administration, which regulates vehicle safety, has issued guidelines to automakers for dashboard systems and is working on similar guidelines for cellphones and voice-activated systems, but the guidelines are voluntary. Currently, infotainment systems are unregulated.

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About Katie Krol

Katie Krol is the Marketing and Operations Coordinator at Unhaggle. She spends her days writing news pieces, car reviews and original content. In the near future, she's looking to purchase a Jeep Wrangler Unlimited for weekend trips to her parents' farm, and she would love to be cruising around the city in her dream car, a matte black Audi R8.

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