New Study Finds Siri More Distracting Than Google Now While Driving

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Siri and other voice-activated systems can cause potentially unsafe mental distractions lasting several seconds while driving, according to a new research study by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety. Siri's score of 3.4 on the five-point scale is considered more distracting than Google Now's 3.0 score, but less distracting than Microsoft Cortana, which received a 3.8 rating.


AAA's mental distraction rankings also included vehicles, ranging from the least distracting Chevy Equinox at 2.4 to the Mazda 6 at 4.6, which is nearly the highest level of cognitive distraction. The study found that mental distractions can persist for as long as 27 seconds after using hands-free or voice-activated systems, as drivers readjust to the task of driving.
"The lasting effects of mental distraction pose a hidden and pervasive danger that would likely come as a surprise to most drivers," said Peter Kissinger, President and CEO of the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety. "The results indicate that motorists could miss stop signs, pedestrians and other vehicles while the mind is readjusting to the task of driving."

Researchers found that potentially unsafe levels of mental distraction can last for as long as 27 seconds after completing a distracting task in the worst-performing systems studied. At the 25 MPH speed limit in the study, drivers traveled the length of nearly three football fields during this time. When using the least distracting systems, drivers remained impaired for more than 15 seconds after completing a task.
AAA's mental distraction rankings while driving are broken down into five categories:

- Category 1: About the same as listening to the radio or an audio book
- Category 2: About the same as talking on the phone
- Category 3: Equivalent to sending voice-activated texts on an error-free system
- Category 4: About the same as uploading social media
- Category 5: Highly challenging, scientific test designed to overload a driver's attention

The study did not include the latest in-dash systems such as CarPlay or Android Auto.

The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety published Phase I and Phase II of this study over the past few years. In the second phase, the foundation found Siri's high complexity and low intuitiveness resulted in some of the highest levels of mental distraction compared to other in-car tasks such as adjusting the radio or navigating complex menus.

Article Link: New Study Finds Siri More Distracting Than Google Now While Driving
 

Rogifan

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Nov 14, 2011
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What criteria are they using to come up with those scores? Why is Cortana considered the most distracting?
 
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Makosuke

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Aug 15, 2001
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I don't know about comparing Google Now to Siri--they're both in the same range--but overall these results are not surprising.

That said, it's tremendously handy to be able to ask Siri something like "Give me directions to the nearest Dairy Queen" when in an unfamiliar city and be able to get navigation going without ever taking your eyes off the road. It's still of course a little distracting, since there is some cognitive load involved in doing anything, but it works quite well for that kind of simple, practical query, and I suspect if I had a CarPlay system with a decent microphone that I could activate from the steering wheel it would be even smoother.

I can't wait for aftermarket CarPlay units to come down a bit more in price--I can't justify replacing a perfectly good Pioneer unit, but I really want one.
 
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cdm283813

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I'm personally against tech that's built into vehicles. It's one thing to set up music on a phone before driving but it's another trying to operate a huge touch panel in the center console or decipher commands
 
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mbc2237

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Aug 16, 2012
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One day it will be useful, but for now Siri is only good at telling a bad joke when asked for the second time. It always takes me longer to use Siri. Asking her twice to complete the command, waiting, her coming back with something completely wrong, cancelling, and then manually completing the task as i should have just done in the first place. Every few months i give her another try and I am sadly disappointed.
 

2457282

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From the study
A total of 257 drivers ages 21-70 participated in the study of 2015 model-year vehicles, while 65 additional drivers ages 21-68 tested the three phone systems.
To infer how distracting Google, Apple, or MS are, based on 65 drivers (potentially 20 for each phone system) seems way too small of a sample. Better studies needed here. Statistically you need a sample size closer to 400 to represent the US population.
 
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mantan

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I've found Siri to be most useful for setting up appointments and reminders, and it works about 95% of the time. For everything else it gets distracting because it just doesn't get it and I find myself repeating my command.
I could not agree more. Siri is FANTASTIC if I just need to make a quick reminder. But literally everything else is a struggle. To the point it's a running joke with the family when we ask Siri for something.

Sadly Google Now has been a much superior product, but is limited on what it can access on the iPhone. I don't understand how Siri has failed to lag behind for this long. We see silly articles about trivial party tricks like 'Back to the Future Day' Siri jokes....but the core of the product is still very poor

Well except for the predictable Apple defender that inevitably comes on and says Siri always works for them and I must just mumble or have an accent.
 

al256

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Jun 7, 2001
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I spent 7 minutes in the car repeatedly trying to get Siri to call my mom last night.

I always have to ask for directions twice before it works. The first time has Siri cutting out mid sentence while responding to my request.

I was once told the way to get Siri engineers to actually listen to responses is to talk in a funny voice. What I need is a word for debugging that gets evaluated by the team. Short of that - I need a camera in my car to record how poorly Siri operates so I can post it on YouTube.
 

Thunderhawks

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I could not agree more. Siri is FANTASTIC if I just need to make a quick reminder. But literally everything else is a struggle. To the point it's a running joke with the family when we ask Siri for something.

Sadly Google Now has been a much superior product, but is limited on what it can access on the iPhone. I don't understand how Siri has failed to lag behind for this long. We see silly articles about trivial party tricks like 'Back to the Future Day' Siri jokes....but the core of the product is still very poor

Well except for the predictable Apple defender that inevitably comes on and says Siri always works for them and I must just mumble or have an accent.
Plus people accusing me of lying, when I say Siri doesn't work for me.
 

jwdsail

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Mar 3, 2004
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I'm an in-car coach for a teen driving clinic, and frankly, any use of a phone (besides navigation) while driving is pretty ***** stupid. I teach that the phone should stay in the glove box. If you need to use it, pull the frak over. You're not POTUS, and it isn't the Red Phone ringing. It can ***** wait. Frankly, that goes for pretty much everyone on the damn road. Just pull over, or let it wait.

Some additional thoughts -

1. I'm on the road constantly, driving to and from clients homes and offices. I see allot of people still using their new(looking) phones in recently built cars (BMWs, Mercs, Cadys), that likely at least have bluetooth, up to their head, holding them, steering one-handed (if that).

1.b. I wonder if the people being tested on these systems had ever used any of them, which could skew the results? Based on the number of people I see driving and talking on the phone w/o even using a hands-free, I doubt that most/all had ever used any voice systems in a car before. Unfamiliarity with a system would add to the distraction levels, I'm sure.

2. What additional distractions are introduced by all the testing equipment?

  • Cameras mounted inside an instrumented car to track eye and head movement of drivers.
  • A Detection-Response-Task device known as the “DRT” was used to record driver reaction time in response to triggers of red and green lights added to their field of vision.
  • A special electroencephalographic (EEG)-configured skull cap was used to chart participants’ brain activity so that researchers could determine mental workload.
Yes, the addition of all that crap does't skew the results *at all* ;-) That couldn't be distracting while driving.. nope. Sigh.


3. Are they testing these systems, like Siri, in a way that most people would actually use them, making and answering calls, perhaps setting up reminders, or are they having people do things they may not even do when they're not driving, like composing a post to FaceBook, as we've seen in past tests?



I'm all for promoting safety behind the wheel. I'm also all for anything that could help improve systems like Siri. Tests like these have the potential to help, but, I question the methods being used, and the usefulness of the results these methods produce.
 
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