Those of us in the business of automotive technology have struggled with the balance of offering features and services that could compete for a driver’s attention, when clearly the driver needs to focus on the task at hand. We have believed that voice control technology can allow drivers to safely access features without undue distraction, and we thought we could convince drivers to put away their smartphones and talk, text, post and e-mail using voice control. But it comes as no surprise that many people have given up on current voice control technology because it can be frustrating to use.
And new research shows that it can also be distracting to use. “Even though your car may be configured to support social media, texting and phone calls, it doesn’t mean it is safe to do so,” says University of Utah psychology professor David Strayer, leader of a recent study concluding that in-dash infotainment systems using voice control for music, navigation, phone calling and other functions are overly complicated and prone to errors. The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety agrees, claiming that today’s voice control technologies, which are designed to be less distracting, may actually have the opposite effect.
Has voice control technology reached a point where we can text and drive safely? Text-to-speech and speech-to-text processing keeps your fingers off the keyboard, but does it keep your mind on your driving? We agree that this isn’t all about eyes and fingers on the smartphone, but also about the personal choice one makes when engaging in such a behavior. There are times when people simply choose to be distracted.
NHTSA published distracted driver guidelines in April 2013 to address in-car control systems that use buttons, knobs and touchscreens. At the time, voice-control was not specifically covered. However, this new study might gain the attention of regulators looking to bolster these guidelines.
Not all of today’s voice control technology is at a point where texting and driving can be done safely, and not even with Apple’s Siri integrated into the car. But we have experienced voice control technology that can help identify music tracks or even give a track a “thumb-up” or thumb-down” while playing Pandora, and it can also accomplish more complex navigation system tasks and also search for services using a Yelp app, actions that would require more time with the driver’s eyes off the road and hands off the wheel. Or the car pulling over, which most drivers won’t do.
For all functions, technology needs to reach a level of sophistication where drivers are compelled to make a personal choice and utilize technology to accomplish whatever productivity or communication tasks are important to them while driving. No amount of legal browbeating, public service campaigns or testimonials are going to convince people to give up on being productive, entertained or in-touch on their own terms until such an intuitive hands-free technology is developed or improved upon.
Source: Attention Must Be Paid – New York Times