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The dangers of voice-activated devices

As people become more aware of the dangers involved in distracted driving, cellphone and vehicle manufacturers look for ways to lessen the amount of distraction drivers’ experience while on the road. Voice-activated technology is designed to perform certain tasks when drivers speak commands. For example, a car equipped with voice-activated technology would allow people to call a contact, navigate the radio and even compose a text all while driving. A study released by AAA found that even though voice-activated technology reduces the amount of cognitive distraction caused by cellphone use, it still creates a significant amount of distraction, which may lead to a devastating car accident.

The study looked at different voice-activated technologies implemented in various vehicles and how they affected a driver’s mental workload as they performed a host of tasks. Drivers were asked to initiate voice commands, such as dialing a contact, changing the radio station and changing a CD, as well as listen to email and text messages, compose replies to email and text messages and use Siri to update social media statuses, send text messages, listen to text messages and make calendar appointments. While some systems had computerized voices used in the technology, others had more natural voices. Researchers measured driver reaction time, heart rate and mental workload while they performed the tasks.

The results showed that some built-in vehicle systems were harder to use than others, and as the level of difficulty increased, so did the levels of cognitive distraction. If car manufacturers streamlined the voice-activated technology and made it easier to use, this could result in reduced levels of distraction. Yet, performing any type of mental task while driving takes a driver’s mind off of the road.

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