Using instrumented test vehicles, heart-rate monitors and other equipment designed to measure reaction times, Dr. David Strayer and researchers from the University of Utah evaluated and ranked common voice-activated interactions based on the level of cognitive distraction generated. The team used a five-category rating system, which they created in 2013.
On the five point scale, Toyota’s Entune system garnered the lowest cognitive distraction ranking (at 1.7), which is similar to listening to an audio book. In comparison, the Chevrolet MyLink resulted in a high level of cognitive distraction (rating of 3.7). The other systems tested ranked in between those two. The Hyundai Blue Link was rated at 2.2, the Chrysler Uconnect at 2.7, the Ford SYNC with MyFord Touch at 3.0 and the Mercedes COMAND was rated at 3.1.
“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 Bob Darbelnet, chief executive officer of AAA. “We now understand that current shortcomings in these products, intended as safety features, may unintentionally cause greater levels of cognitive distraction.”
Notably, when Apple's Siri was used to perform a broader range of tasks including using social media, sending texts and updating calendars, it caused the highest level of mental distraction, reaching category 4.
To put this in context, listening to the radio was previously rated as a category 1 distraction; talking on a hand-held or hands-free cell phone resulted in a category 2 distraction; and using an error-free speech-to-text system to listen to and compose emails or texts was a category 3 distraction.
The study comes just as Apple CarPlay has gone live on aftermarket head units such as the Pioneer NEX.
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