Voice-activated car systems analyzed in new cognitive distraction study

Published on March 17, 2015, by Matthew Sharp


Voice-activated car systems analyzed in new cognitive distraction study

The proliferation of technology used by drivers prompted a 2013 study by the American Automobile Association’s Foundation for Traffic Safety. That research compared sources of mental distraction and found that voice-based communication systems in vehicles could potentially be more diverting than conversations on hand held devices. To clarify that research, a follow-up study analyzed seven common speech-to-text programs to measure the level of cognitive distraction each one caused.

A car accident lawyer Reno recognizes that the findings of this research are important. Distraction-related car accidents are on the rise, according to Distraction.gov, and the prevalence of voice-activated systems available in new vehicles could raise the number of injury and fatality crashes.

Speech-to-text distraction factors

Any activity that pulls mental focus away from the task of driving is considered a driver distraction. In the original AAA study, listening to the radio or an audio book did not affect attention significantly, but conversations with a person in the car or communications on a cell phone raised the risk of an accident. Many of the interactions required to operate a voice-based program were significantly more disrupting than a conversation.

Researchers discovered that some systems affected focus less than the one used in the original study, and did not differ much from a basic conversation. However, any car accident lawyer in Reno may note that technology used in other systems was complex and nearly as cognitively demanding as the test’s most mentally taxing activities, which involved the completion of math tasks while driving.

Results and future studies

The results of the new research identify the issues that affect cognitive processes when a driver uses a speech-to-text program. The primary factor was the length of time needed to complete the interaction. When the commands are simple and concise, the program does not require as much concentration. A user who encountered many errors during a task took longer to complete the commands and took more focus from the road, leading to a much higher risk of causing a collision. Researchers may expand on their findings in future tests by measuring system accuracy in interpreting commands, the length of dialogue tasks and the difficulty of system mastery.

The variability in the seven programs analyzed demonstrates that the safety of the voice-based system typically depends on the ability of the driver to use the program responsibly and competently. An individual who suffers an injury caused by driver distraction should seek legal advice from a car accident lawyer in Reno. If the driver’s attention is pulled from the road due to a poorly designed speech-to-text program, compensation may be available from multiple sources.