Voice-controlled technology seems like a no-brainer. If your hands are on the wheel and your eyes on the road, than distractions and risk should be at a minimum. Certainly there have been a number of companies developing this technology and pushing it as a safer alternative to hand-held devices, but before you run out and pony up big money for the newest technology consider this. A study by folks at the University of Utah suggests that voice-controlled technology in the car might be less safe than originally thought. In fact, it may be even more dangerous than using a hand-held device!

Distracted driving ads have been all over the place in recent history. From radio and TV ads to billboards and online advertising, safe driving without the use of a cell phone is all the rage. So it makes sense that companies would be in the business of finding safe alternatives to increase their brand appeal and also make a little money. The problem is these companies’ products aren’t efficient enough. 

The researchers behind the study created a baseline metric which they could use to compare the level of cognitive distraction while performing certain tasks behind the wheel of a car. The researchers tested things like talking to a passenger while driving, using a hand-held phone and making a hands-free call. All of these activities displayed a certain level of cognitive distraction, but surprisingly, using text-to-speech to send texts and emails caused an even higher level of cognitive distraction than anything else tested.

The assumption is that these programs don’t often understand what you are saying correctly, creating a need for proofreading. They also increase the level of anger by the user when they don’t work as advertised. This effectively distracts the driver from their main task of driving a motor vehicle calm, cool and distraction free. 

The researchers remarked, "The assumption that if the eyes were on the road and the hands were on the steering wheel then voice-based interactions would be safe appears to be unwarranted. Simply put, hands-free does not mean risk-free." 

While no one is advocating using hand-held devices while driving a car, it is interesting to learn that the alternatives aren’t safer and the only way to truly minimize distracted driving is to turn off all electronic devices until you’ve reached your destination. That text or that phone call can wait. To see the full study follow the link below.


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