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Digital Assistants distract drivers' attention
November 8, 2015, 4:43 pm

A report on distracted driving, done by the University of Utah in the US, concluded that infotainment systems distract drivers when they are using them on the road.

Researchers looked at the aftereffects of driving while using onboard infotainment systems and digital assistant apps on mobile devices.

They found that while a lot of drivers commonly use their voices to dictate text messages and place calls while driving, the distraction can persist long after a driver has stopped interacting with the digital systems and software. For example, up to 27 seconds after people terminated a text message, distraction from that prior activity could still be measured.

Using a five-point scale which defines 1 as mild distraction, 2 as moderate distraction, 3 as high distraction, 4 as very high distraction, and 5 as maximum distraction, the researchers found the onboard infotainment systems of some popular auto makers ranged from a low of 2.4 for Chevy’s MyLink infotainment system to a high of 4.6 for Mazda’s Connect, with Toyota’s Entune scoring 2.9, Ford’s MyFord Touch getting 3.1 and Hyundai’s Blue Link scoring 3.8.

To put it in perspective mobile handheld calling scored a 2.5 and hands-free calling scored 2.3. Listening to an audiobook was rated 1.7, and rocking to the radio was rated 1.2.

Meanwhile, the Digital Assistant apps on mobile devices were rated as follows, with the first number related to voice-commanded calling and the second regarding dictated text messaging: Google Now, 3.0 and 3.3; Apple's Siri, 3.4 and 3.7; and Microsoft's Cortana, 3.8 and 4.1.

Developers and publishers of digital assistant apps discourage the use of such software while driving. Google has been encouraging users to leverage Android Auto in cars instead of Google Now. Google said. "Android Auto has been designed from the ground up to help reduce distraction while driving.”

Some of the infotainment system scores varied by model, leaving researcher with the suspicions that vehicle ergonomics and factors such as road noise played into the level of distraction created. 

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