Study: Imperfect hands-free systems causing potentially-unsafe d - Spokane, North Idaho News & Weather KHQ.com

Study: Imperfect hands-free systems causing potentially-unsafe driver distractions

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KHQ.com -  New research released Tuesday indicates that hands free devices for cars and some dashboard infotainment systems may be making the problem worse.

"It's the voice activated system that gives drivers a false sense of security behind the wheel," says Triple-A spokesperson Yolanda Cade.

According to Triple-A, distracted driving crashes killed 3,328 people across the U.S. last year.

University of Utah researchers, in conjunction with Triple-A, conducted a pair of studies with volunteer drivers in simulators and on the road.   

One study focused on dashboard infotainment systems in cars. It found systems from Toyota and Hyundai caused less distraction for drivers, but ones from Chevy, Ford and Mercedes were much more distracting -- especially when it came to voice recognition.

"that tends to make it very frustrating for the driver---increase the levels of workload," says Dr. David Strayer, one of the researchers from the University of Utah. 

"And it's just a situation that's unnecessarily complex."

Researchers say that distracts drivers' attention even if both hands are on the wheel.   

The researchers' second study tested apple's Siri voice activated system, and found a high level of distraction -- 4.1 on a scale of 1 to 5.

"It's more mentally demanding to talk to a computer or talk to your car than it would be to talk to a person in the car," Dr. Strayer says.

But as automakers refine their in-car technologies, researchers say you have a simple consideration. 

Dr. strayer says, "it's a good idea if you're going to be buying a new car, to make sure you can use that technology before you buy the car."

Chevy, whose dashboard system got the worst rating, says the researchers used their 2013 "MyLink" system, and they've made improvements in the version they currently offer. 

Likewise, the Siri version the researchers tested and gave low marks to was from iOS7 not the current iOS8.
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