Thursday, June 13, 2013

"Voice-Activated Technology Is Called Safety Risk for Drivers"

If there was ever any doubt that adding Internet connectivity and voice command technologies to cars is a bad idea, this should wipe that doubt away.

I summarize below (do read the whole article). Passages that are not direct quotations should be taken as my editorial ranting.

"In April, the federal government recommended that automakers voluntarily limit the technology in their cars to keep drivers focused," but automakers see dollar signs when they think about installing this stuff. Profits! Profits! Who cares about safety?

Research led by "David Strayer, a neuroscientist at the University of Utah who for two decades has applied the principles of attention science to driver behavior," shows that
What makes the use of these speech-to-text systems so risky is that they create a significant cognitive distraction.... The brain is so taxed interacting with the system that, even with hands on the wheel and eyes on the road, the driver’s reaction time and ability to process what is happening on the road are impaired.
(Some of Strayer's earlier research showed that "talking on a phone while driving creates the same level of crash risk as someone with a 0.08 blood-alcohol level, the legal level for intoxication across the country.)

And it's not just that speech-to-text is distracting, but that it's more distracting than other activities. In his latest study, Strayer and his colleagues "compared the impact on drivers of different activities, including listening to a book on tape or the radio, and talking on a hand-held phone or hands-free phone" and found "the results were consistent across all the tests in finding that speech-to-text technology caused a higher level of cognitive distraction than any of the other activities."

The only way this technology should be legal would be if the driver could not use it. I suspect it would be safe to install it in the back seats of limos, for example. There might even be a way for a passenger in the front seat, but not the drive, to use it - I don't know how that would be accomplished, but that would probably be fairly safe, too.

We really don't need more distracted drivers.
See also in this blog (listed from most to least recent) "Device Prevents Driving While Phone Is In Use," "Attention Turns to the Dangers of Distracted Pedestrians," and "Cell Carriers Explore Ways to Limit Distracted Driving."

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