Voice-activated systems in cars are becoming more popular as automakers strive to keep drivers’ hands on the wheel and eyes on the road, but concerns about driver distraction related to these systems have increased.
AAA’s Foundation for Highway Safety recently released a study that calls the proliferation of these systems in cars "a looming public safety crisis." IMS Research reports that by 2019, more than 50 percent of all new cars will integrate some form of voice recognition, and automakers say that these systems are safer because they are hands-free.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has recommended that automakers voluntarily limit the technology in their cars to ensure that drivers stay focused, with researchers suggesting that speech-to-text systems are risky because they create significant cognitive distraction, reducing drivers’ reaction times and abilities to process what’s happening on the road.
University of Utah Neuroscientist David Strayer has found that talking on a phone while driving creates the same level of crash risk as someone with a 0.08 blood-alcohol level, the legal level for intoxication across the country. He noted the results were consistent across all tests that included other activities, including listening to audiobooks, and the research found that speech-to-text technology caused a higher level of cognitive distraction than any of the other activities. For instance, the research showed that the person interacting with speech-to-text was less likely than in other activities to scan a crosswalk for pedestrians.