Two studies ranked car stereo systems in new cars and found they varied greatly in driver distraction.
The most distracting system studied was Apple’s Siri, followed by Mercedes’ Comand and Ford’s MyFord Touch.
AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety and the University of Utah found that the accuracy of voice recognition had a big influence on the radio’s level of distraction.
It also found that composing text messages and emails by voice was more distracting than listening to the messages and emails. So part of the problem is just the act of thinking about something other than driving, or cognitive distraction.
The study borrowed from hurricane ratings to rank the different tasks in using a radio system. So changing stations is a category 1 (low) while composing emails was a category 3 (high).
Using that system, car infotainment systems received the following rankings with Toyota’s Entune being the least distracting:
— 1.7 for Toyota’s Entune
—2.2 for Hyundai’s Blue Link
—2.7 for Chrysler’s UConnect
—3.0 for Ford SYNC with MyFord Touch
—3.1 for Mercedes’ COMAND
—4.14 Apple’s Siri
The study included both on the road driving in Salt Lake City and driving simulators. Test equipment including heart-rate monitors were used to gauge reaction times.
“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, CEO of AAA. “We now understand that current shortcomings in these products, intended as safety features, may unintentionally cause greater levels of cognitive distraction.”
AAA concludes that car makers can improve the safety of infotainment by making the systems “less complicated, more accurate and generally easier to use.”
See the full AAA press release here.