Hands-Free Communications Not So Safe For Drivers

This update on a serious topic comes from TheStreet…

hands free safety

If you think using your hands-free communication system keeps you from being a distracted driver – you better think again. According to a new survey from the AAA Foundation for Public Safety, these new technological features could actually “increase mental distraction.”

The scale used for the tests included listening to the radio (category 1), talking on a hand-held or hands-free cell phone (category 2) and using an error-free, speech-to-text system to listen/compose emails or texts (category 3). The survey found that all of the systems tested increase the distractions an average driver has to deal with and that can increasing the chances of having an accident.

Of the built-in systems surveyed, Toyota’s (TM) Entune system garnered the lowest cognitive distraction ranking (at 1.7) – which, researchers equate to being similar to listening to an audio book. Chevrolet’s (GM) MyLink resulted in a high level of cognitive distraction with a rating of 3.7. Other systems tested included the Hyundai Blue Link (2.2), Chrysler’s  (FIATY) Uconnect (2.7), Ford (F) SYNC with MyFord Touch (3.0) and the Mercedes COMAND (rating 3.1).

Overall, the survey found:

  • The accuracy of voice recognition software significantly influences the rate of distraction.
  • Systems with low accuracy and reliability generated a high level (category 3) of distraction.
  • Composing text messages and emails using in-vehicle technologies (category 3) was more distracting than using these systems to listen to messages (category 2).
  • The quality of the systems’ voice had no impact on distraction levels – listening to a natural or synthetic voice both rated as a category 2 level of distraction.Tested separately

Measured separately, the study also assessed Apple’s Siri using iOS 7, but not iOS 8. Researchers measured a broad range of tasks including using social media, sending texts and updating calendars. The research uncovered that hands-and-eyes-free use of Siri generated a category 4 level of mental distraction.

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