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The Appeal Of Distraction

According to industry insiders, new car buyers are increasingly interested in built-in technology that keeps a driver connected to the outside world. The dashboard "infotainment" system is a major selling point for some new cars, particularly those favored by younger drivers. Unfortunately, that technology could be contributing to injuries and deaths in distracted driving accidents. A recent study looked at several pieces of voice-activated technology and the impact each had on a drivers' attention. The study supported previous findings that even hands-free technology presents an unsafe level of distraction for a driver.

The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety worked with the University of Utah to test voice-activated technology. The technology analyzed included the Siri system used by Apple and the infotainment systems used in Chevrolet, Ford, Chrysler, Mercedes and Hyundai vehicles. Study participants were asked to use voice-activated functionality in those systems to complete tasks such as navigating streets and sending text messages. Each system was rated on the level of distraction it posed. 

The most distracting system analyzed was Apple's Siri system. Of the various infotainment systems, MyLink from Chevrolet performed the worst. One factor that seemed to tie the worst performers together was the frequency of mistakes made by the devices even when given clear and distinct voice commands. The more error-prone and complex the voice-activation system, the more distraction it posed to drivers.

Evidence has made it clear that a person driving a car cannot afford to be conducting other business. Whether the technology is cell phone based, built-in, hands-free or other, it cannot be operated safely by a person who should be focused on safe driving.

Source: Atlanta Daily World, "The dangers of talking to your car," by Joan Lowy, 8 October 2014 

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