Len Klie

Wasn’t Speech Supposed to Fix That?

I thought the whole purpose of providing speech technologies as part of in-vehicle systems was supposed to increase safety. But the technology, while a few years old already, hasn’t done much to increase driver safety, it would seem. In fact, as the technology gets more sophisticated, it’s having the opposite effect. Or at least that is the message coming out of AAA, although I’m sure the speech vendors providing the technology would paint a much different picture.

According to the AAA research sponsored by its Foundation for Traffic Safety, new vehicle infotainment systems, including those that rely on voice and touch-screen features, take drivers’ eyes and attention off the road and hands off the wheel for potentially dangerous periods of time.

Drivers using in-vehicle technologies like voice-based and touch screen features were visually and mentally distracted for more than 40 seconds when completing tasks like programming navigation or sending text messages. Removing eyes from the road for just two seconds doubles the risk for a crash, according to previous research. With one in three U.S. adults using infotainment systems while driving, AAA cautions that using these technologies while behind the wheel can have dangerous consequences.

AAA conducted this new research to help automakers and system designers improve the functionality of new infotainment systems and the demand they place on drivers.

“Some in-vehicle technology can create unsafe situations for drivers on the road by increasing the time they spend with their eyes and attention off the road and hands off the wheel,” said David Yang, executive director of the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, in a statement. “When an in-vehicle technology is not properly designed, simple tasks for drivers can become complicated and require more effort from drivers to complete.”

The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety commissioned researchers from the University of Utah to examine the visual and cognitive demand as well as the time it took drivers to complete tasks using the infotainment systems in 30 new 2017 vehicles. Study participants were required to use voice command, touch screen, and other interactive technologies to make calls, send text messages, tune the radio, or program navigation systems while driving.

Programming navigation was the most distracting task, taking an average of 40 seconds for drivers to complete.

None of the 30 systems produced low demand, while 23 systems generated high or very high levels of demand on drivers. Twelve systems generated very high demand; 11 systems generated high demand, and seven systems generated moderate demand.

Overall Demand by Vehicle

Low

Moderate

High

Very High

N/A

Chevrolet Equinox  LT

Ford F250 XLT

Hyundai Santa Fe Sport

Lincoln MKC Premiere

Toyota Camry SE

Toyota Corolla SE

Toyota Sienna XLE

Cadillac XT5 Luxury

Chevrolet Traverse LT

Dodge Ram 1500

Ford Fusion Titanium

Hyundai Sonata Base

Infiniti Q50 Premium

Jeep Compass Sport

Jeep Grand Cherokee Limited

Kia Sorento LX

Nissan Maxima SV

Toyota Rav 4 XLE

Audi Q7 QPP

Chrysler 300 C

Dodge Durango GT

Ford Mustang GT

GMC Yukon SLT

Honda Civic Touring

Honda Ridgeline RTL-E

Mazda3 Touring

Nissan Armada SV

Subaru Crosstrek Premium

Tesla Model S

Volvo XC60 T5 Inscription

Whew! My Honda Accord was not on the list!!!!

“Drivers want technology that is safe and easy to use, but many of the features added to infotainment systems today have resulted in overly complex and sometimes frustrating user experiences for drivers,” said Marshall Doney, AAA’s president and CEO, in a statement.

Frustration resulting from unsatisfactory use of these systems increases cognitive demand and increases the potential for distracted driving.
According to a new AAA public opinion survey, nearly 70 percent of U.S. adults say that they want the new technology in their vehicle, but only 24 percent feel that the technology already works perfectly.

“Some of the latest systems on the market now include functions unrelated to the core task of driving like sending text messages, checking social media or surfing the web — tasks we have no business doing behind the wheel,” Doney continued. “Automakers should aim to reduce distractions by designing systems that are no more visually or mentally demanding than listening to the radio or an audiobook. And drivers should avoid the temptation to engage with these technologies, especially for non-driving tasks.”

“These are solvable problems. By following NHTSA’s voluntary guidelines to lock out certain features that generate high demand while driving, automakers can significantly reduce distraction,” said Jake Nelson, AAA’s director of Traffic Safety Advocacy & Research, in a statement. “AAA cautions drivers that just because a technology is available while driving does not mean it is safe or easy to use when behind the wheel. Drivers should only use these technologies for legitimate emergencies or urgent, driving related purposes.”