The voice recognition software in many automaker’s new vehicles, designed to keep drivers hands on the wheel and eyes on the road, may still dangerously divert attention away from driving, according to a new study from AAA.
Hands-free technology is designed to allow drivers to sends texts and other messages in addition to controlling their cars infotainment system by using their voice, rather than their hands. AAA’s study found single-task commands in the car, such as pushing a button to change the radio station, required the least workload from drivers. On the other end of the spectrum, Siri-based voice recognition systems, such as that found in Chevrolet’s MyLink infotainment system, proved to be the most distracting to use.
AAA researchers say driver workload ratings were at the highest when using Siri and that two of the three simulator crashes they experienced during the study were caused by drivers attempting to use the voice-recognition system. Flaws in Siri’s system contributed to the distractions, with the program sometimes producing different responses for identical voice commands.
“Siri required exact phrases to accomplish specific tasks and subtle deviations from that phrasing would result in a failure,” AAA said. “Some participants also reported frustration with Siri’s occasional sarcasm and wit.”
Researchers also rated the six most popular infotainment systems from automakers to see which one had the voice recognition software most effective at reducing distracted driving. Toyota’s Entune system came out on top, while Chevy’s MyLink system performed the poorest. AAA said MyLink imposed more of a mental burden on drivers than any other system, with some study participants simply giving up on it.
“We believe that this high level of workload was elicited by system errors and prolonged duration of the task,”AAA said. “In many circumstances, participants were unable to complete the music functions task at all during the drive. For many of the drivers, the first reaction was to simply give up trying.”
General Motors did not return Autoblog’s call when they requested a comment on MyLinks poor showing in the study. It doesn’t matter which system was the worst really, because the point to pull away here is that while hands-free systems may be legal, they do not reduce the amount of distracted drivers on the road. AAA says automakers will need to pay more attention to hands-free driving systems and consumers will need to exercise more caution when using the technology going forward.