Study shows smart technology in cars can be distracting, could pose risks on the road

Posted at 7:58 PM, Oct 22, 2015
and last updated 2015-10-22 21:58:44-04

SALT LAKE CITY – You may want to think twice before you activate your vehicle’s infotainment system to place a call or send a text message, as a new study shows they are difficult to navigate and could put you in danger on the road.

The whole idea of having a voice-activated system in your vehicle is to keep your hands on the steering wheel, but University of Utah researchers point out that voice commands are actually distracting and can take your focus off the road for up to 27 seconds.

Joel Cooper is a University of Utah researcher who worked with the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety in this latest study, where 260 people drove around neighborhoods in the Avenues going 25 miles per hour and used voice commands to place a call, change a radio station and send a text message.

“When our drivers terminated the voice interaction with the system, they still show elevated workload persisted long after the interaction had completed for up to 27 seconds,” Cooper said.

Systems found in 2015 models of Chevy Equinox, Buick Lacrosse, and Toyota 4Runner were good at getting the drivers attention and completing the right action right off the bat.

“Other systems took a number of steps to complete the same action or made a number of errors,” Cooper said.

Cars that received high distraction ratings include: Ford Taurus, Chevy Malibu, Volkswagen Passat, Nissan Altima, Chrysler 200C, Hyundai Sonata, and the worst was Mazda 6.

In another study, researchers tested smart phone assistants: Microsoft Cortana, Apple Siri, and Android’s Google Now.

“Overall, the Android system did perform the best in our evaluation, just made fewer errors, it generally [did] what the users expected more often than not,” Cooper said.

Researchers hope people will use this info to make good decisions before they get behind the wheel.

“Also to inform the automakers so they can make better systems, make systems that don't distract drivers, just provides a little accountability,” Cooper said.

Researchers plan on completing another study in the near future on the use of touch screens while driving. To read the current reports, click here.