Distraction is a common cause of car accidents. In fact, the US Department of Transportation says 3,328 people were killed in distracted driving accidents in 2012. Electronic devices are a major source of distraction for American drivers. With today’s ubiquitous connectivity, many people want to take this connection with them as they travel in their cars. For this reason, automakers have begun integrating in-dash “infotainment” systems that work with voice-activated mobile systems like Apple’s Siri.
Two studies recently released indicate that these infotainment and mobile voice-activated systems may be presenting drivers with another source of dangerous distraction. Ideally, these systems should work flawlessly, with the driver giving an instruction and the voice-activated system understanding and carrying it out every time; however, these studies found that these systems often require a lot of concentration from the driver because the systems can be prone to misunderstanding commands or carrying them out incorrectly, forcing the driver to pay more attention to the voice-activated system than they should be.
Various voice-activated systems were tested and ranked on a distraction scale by researchers from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety and the University of Utah. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has issued guidelines related to in-dash infotainment systems, but these guidelines are voluntary for automakers.