Is Voice-Recognition Technology the Answer to Distracted Driving?

Voice recognition for driving
“Siri” is the new voice-activated personal assistant on the new iPhone 4S, that was highly raved about in its early October release. It was marketed and reviewed as a safer way to text, in order to lessen the dangers on the road for distracted driving. Siri listens to your voice and follows your command; an attractive solution to completing tasks while behind the wheel, without the distraction.

Many states have banned texting while driving, and others have laws allowing hands-free devices, which would permit Siri as an acceptable form of technology. Other states, have banned cell phone use altogether.

The issue being questioned in regards to Siri is that the voice commands do not work unless the user pushes the iPhone’s home button to activate the service. So is the application truly hands-free for drivers?

Other cell phone applications for hands-free driving include Vlingo and Sensory. Carmakers are also working to incorporate this technology directly into the vehicles. The features are specifically for text messaging through voice commands, in order to prevent distracted driving.

While voice command technology continues to improve and develop, state lawmakers need to decide whether Siri, and other similar devices, are less distracting and are permitted or if they believe these pose the same threat to drivers.

The technology is so new, there has been no research conducted to support or deny these claims.

While 34 states have bans on texting while driving, there is no proof indicating whether the new laws have had any effect. Even in states where typing out texting while driving is banned, nearly 45 percent of 18-24 year old do it anyway. Four states had increase crash rates after implementing the ban, according to a 2010 study from the Highway Loss Data Institute. It is speculated that it is because drivers were hiding their phones in their laps to avoid ticketing.

“We need laws that mandate safe technology solutions, not laws that are going to be simply ignored by people,” CEO of Vlingo Dave Grannan says. “You can’t change people’s behavior.”

Grannan believes that voice-recognition programs are very important in order to assure road safety.

However, other people believe that cell phones in general are a risk, regardless of the hands-free features. In fact, The National Safety Council promoted a complete ban on cell phone use while driving, but has yet announced a stance on hands-free equipment.

Texting while using voice-recognition technology is in the beginning stages, which makes it difficult for policymakers to take any stand for it or against it.

Voice recognition for driving“There’s a lot we don’t know about distraction and how (voice-controlled) systems are affecting the driving task,” says Russ Rader, vice president of communications for the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. Intuitively, you would think that they’d help because they are aimed at helping drivers at least keeping their eyes on the road, if not their minds.”

Another point Rader adds, is whether the technology is more frustrating if it doesn’t work well, and if the technology encourages cell phone use.

Once research has been conducted, people will be able to form educated opinions regarding voice-recognition technology.

Do you think Siri and other voice-recognition technology is safe for drivers to use?


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