In-Car Verbal Email, Facebook Slammed

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Voice activated or verbal email in the car is still a huge  distraction to drivers, even when they have their hands on the wheel and eyes on the road,  said the most in-depth study on electronic driver distraction to date, according to AAA.

Just the “mental workload” of listening to email or Facebook messages causes drivers to run stop signs or miss a pedestrian.  Drivers scan the road less and miss visual cues, said a new AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety study announced Wednesday.

As a result, AAA is calling for “disabling” voice activation for email, text messaging and social media interaction while the car is moving.

To gather information,the study at the University of Utah included cameras mounted in the car to track eye movement, and a special skull cap worn by the driver that was filled with electronic leads to measure brain activity to determine “mental workload.”

The study findings ranked tasks in the same method as hurricane ratings.  Listening to the radio was found to be a “category one” level of risk.  Talking on a cellphone, even handsfree is a “category two” or moderate risk.  Using voice activation to listen to email or to respond to email is a “category three” or high risk activity.

The study also used a Detection-Response-Task device  to record driver reaction time in response to red and green lights. And it claimed to build upon “decades of research in the aerospace and automotive industries.”

While AAA recommends halting use of voice activation for tasks like email, it would still allow voice activation for climate control or windshield wiper control and other simple tasks.

MyFord Touch-like infotainment systems using voice activation are expected to increase in cars by five-fold through 2018, AAA said.  “There is a looming public safety crisis ahead with the future proliferation of these in-vehicle technologies,” said AAA CEO Robert Darbelnet. “It’s time to consider limiting new and potentially dangerous mental  distractions built into cars, particularly with the common public misperception that hands-free means risk-free.”

Source: AAA

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  1. The government will never be able to effectively mandate that people cannot use their phones when they drive and the requirement that new cars include jammers will leave the drivers of the bazillions of old cars to do as they please. The only way to minimize these kinds of issues is to do what has been done to curb DUI. Take away driving privileges for first offenses and mount a huge educational campaign to highlight the danger.

  2. It is the lesser of two evils. If you take the voice activated technology away, some drivers will revert back to using their hands and eyes to read texts and e-mails which would be a category 5 problem. If safety is of first and foremost concern the only solution is to “jam” the phone while the car is in motion. Some sort of government mandate will be required. The aftermarket and OEM’s are challenged with giving the consumer what they want and if one gives it to the consumer and their is consumer demand for the technology then competition amongst them will lead to all offering this technology. I agree it is a problem that needs to be addressed however voice activated technology and the use of it for listening to text and e-mail while driving isn’t as dangerous as reading texts and e-mail while driving. Let common sense prevail and solve the problem don’t make it worse.

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