Car Voice Systems Distract Drivers, Study Finds

December 29, 2014

Unlocking Word Meanings

Read the following words/expressions found in today’s article. 

1. distract /dɪˈstrækt/ (v.) – to affect someone’s focus
Example: Noisy passengers can distract a driver.

2. hands-free /ˈhændzˌfri/ (adj.) – works without the need for human hands
Example: You can make calls in a hands-free phone without picking it up.

3. manually /ˈmæn yu əli/ (adv.) – done with the use of human hands
Example: Answering phone calls manually while driving is dangerous.

4. laboratory / ˈlæb rəˌtɔr i, -ˌtoʊr i/ (n.) – a place set up to create or do experiments
Example: The virtual car driving test was done in the laboratory.

5. complaint /kəmˈpleɪnt/ (n.) – statement or expression of disagreement
Example: His complaint is about the car’s faulty wiring.


Read the text below.
Two studies reveal that the voice control systems of cars can distract drivers.

Researchers from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety and the University of Utah assessed how cars with virtual assistants affect people’s focus while driving. Voice-activated systems aim to lessen drivers’ tasks by making navigation of phone and car features hands-free. However, it turns out that using voice commands can be more distracting than doing the tasks manually.

The researchers gathered 162 participants to undergo driving tests done in the laboratory and on the road. Seven voice control systems were used in the study, namely: Toyota’s Entune, Hyundai's Blue Link, Chrysler's [KRAHYS-ler] UConnect, Ford Sync with MyFord Touch, Mercedes' COMAND, Chevrolet's MyLink, and Apple’s Siri. Participants were asked to do some tasks aside from driving such as making a call, playing songs on the radio, and using a digital map.

Participants graded the systems on a scale of 1 to 5 with 1 being the lowest distraction rate. Toyota’s Entune got the best rating with 1.7 while Apple’s Siri got the worst with 4.14.

While voice control systems can be helpful, it can also cause problems for the user. The main complaint of the drivers was the systems’ failure in following voice commands. Researchers highlighted the failure of Apple’s Siri to recognize simple requests like changing the radio station. In one instance, Siri called the 911 emergency when it misunderstood the driver’s request.

In response, Apple said that the study did not use “Siri Eyes Free” and “CarPlay,” which are applications designed specifically for cars. But according to lead author David Strayer, the researchers provided details to Apple prior to the study and no applications were recommended.

Viewpoint Discussion

Enjoy a discussion with your tutor.  

Discussion A

·         Do you think driving is easier with voice control systems? Why or why not?
·         How does Apple’s rating affect your opinion about its products?

Discussion B

·         How important is it to study the effect of technology to the consumers?
·         As a consumer, do you check published studies before buying a particular brand of technology? Why or why not?

December 29, 2014