Siri the leading cause of tech distraction in cars, says report

8 Oct 2014

As more and more technology is crammed into our cars, Apple’s voice-activation software Siri is now the leading cause of mental distraction in vehicles within the US, a study suggests.

The study by the American Automobile Association (AAA) in the US also found that as people migrate towards hands-free technology in their cars to cater to all the various gadgets in the name of safety, the associated actions are actually just as distracting as hands-on activity, if not more so.

While the study encompassed a number of different voice-activated pieces of technology, Apple’s Siri has been studied individually because of its ability to perform all the functions of the phone through voice commands, something which the AAA has deemed as the highest level of mental distraction, at category four.

Putting the levels of mental distraction into comparison, the AAA said listening to the radio while driving would be a category one distraction, talking on a hands-free phone falls within category two, and using error-free speech-to-text transcribers is category three.

The AAA is now calling on phone manufacturers and software developers to create easier to use voice-activated systems, but the chief executive officer of AAA, Bob Darbelnet, said that while companies have the right idea with hands-free systems, they are creating unintended safety issues.

“We already know that drivers can miss stop signs, pedestrians and other cars while using voice technologies because their minds are not fully focused on the road ahead,” said Darbelnet.

“We now understand that current shortcomings in these products, intended as safety features, may unintentionally cause greater levels of cognitive distraction.”

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic