Study Warning: Stop Talking to Your Car

October 26, 2015

In real estate, you need to take your business on the go and that may mean using voice-activated systems in your car to keep in touch wherever your day takes you. But a new study is cautioning drivers that voice-activated systems in new cars still pose safety issues.

The most complicated voice-activated systems can prompt drivers to take their mind off the road for up to 27 seconds after they stop interacting with the system. Less complex systems can leave drivers distracted for 15 seconds, according to a newly released neuroscience study released that analyzes cognitive distraction in automobiles.

Driver distraction problems were often found to arise with voice-activated systems from Apple, Google, and Microsoft, the study found.

“The lasting effects of mental distraction pose a hidden and pervasive danger that would likely come as a surprise to most drivers,” says Peter Kissinger, chief executive of the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, which funded the study.

Using voice-activated technology in a car requires the same type of brain power as “balancing a checkbook while driving,” says David Strayer, a neuroscientist at the University of Utah and lead author of the study. “When you hang up, you have to figure out where you are, how fast you’re going, where other vehicles are,” he says.

Automakers have touted that their voice-activated systems provide a safer alternative to using phones while driving, without having to remove your hands from the wheel. But safety advocates say that the features and apps created to use while driving are sending misguided messages that voice-activated technology is safe and acceptable.

Strayer’s research compared the mental energy required by drivers for more than 10 different voice-activated systems. The study found the most distracting systems belonged to the Mazda 6, followed by Microsoft’s Cortana system, and cars from from Hyundai, Chrysler, Nissan and Volkswagen. The study also found that Apple’s Siri system created a “high distraction.”

Source: “Cars’ Voice-Activated Systems Distract Drivers, Study Finds,” The New York Times (Oct. 22, 2015)