AAA research finds hands-free isn’t risk-free
Using voice commands while driving feels safe. After all, your eyes are on the road, and your hands are on the wheel. But according to AAA’s latest research, you’re more distracted than you think. A joint study from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety and University of Utah confirms that voice-activated technologies can cause significant distractions and impair driving. After testing the in-vehicle information systems of 10 cars and the voice assistants of three smartphones, researchers found that all of them were cognitively taxing enough to be potentially dangerous—even up to 27 seconds after drivers finished using them.
What did AAA’s study look at?
This study was the third phase of the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety’s comprehensive investigation of cognitive distraction behind the wheel. Such distractions can slow reaction times and cause inattention blindness, resulting in drivers unknowingly missing objects on the road, such as stop signs, pedestrians, or other cars, which can lead to a crash.
Participants were asked to perform various voice-activated tasks while driving 2015-model cars, such as selecting music, placing a phone call, or dictating a text message. Cameras and other monitoring equipment measured the level of distraction drivers experienced while using the systems in question. Among other things, researchers wanted to see how various voice-based systems affect mental focus, as designs differ significantly between manufacturers.