The car with the most distracting voice control system over the radio is the Mazda 6, in a test of 10 systems, according to AAA,
The Hyundai Sonata and Chrysler 200c were also highly distracting as were many other car radio systems. In fact, a new AAA study found that voice control itself is distracting for up to 15 to 27 seconds AFTER the distracting task is completed, in this case, making a call or changing music.
Distracted driving for 27 seconds at only 25 mph is the equivalent of about the length of 3 football fields.
Drivers could miss stop signs, pedestrians and other vehicles “while the mind is readjusting to the task of driving,” said the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety.
Siri, Google Voice and Microsoft Cortana were also found to be distracting as shown in the chart below. (AAA ranked cars on a distraction scale from 1 to 5, with 5 being the most distracting).
Apple and Google did not respond to our requests for comment.
AAA concluded that using voice commands even at a stop light requires caution. “The reality is that mental distractions persist and can affect driver attention even after the light turns green,” said AAA CEO Marshall Doney.
AAA studied 10 vehicles and three types of smart phones, and said all caused distraction to an unsafe level. The easier the system was to use, the safer it was for drivers.
Sending texts was even more distracting. While sending voice-activated texts, Google Now rated as a category 3.3 distraction, while Apple Siri and Microsoft Cortana rated as category 3.7 and category 4.1 distractions.
A category 1 mental distraction is about the same as listening to the radio or an audio book. A category 2 distraction is about the same as talking on the phone, and category 3 is equivalent to sending voice command texts on a perfect, error-free system. Category 4 is similar to updating social media while driving, while category 5 corresponds to a highly-challenging, scientific test designed to overload a driver’s attention.
“Developers should aim to reduce mental distractions by designing systems that are no more demanding than listening to the radio or an audiobook,” said Doney. He added, “hands-free is not risk free.”