AAA Study Looks Into Voice Activated Systems and Distracted Driving
A recent study conducted by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety sheds light on distracted driving regarding cognitive distraction and in-vehicle information systems. The objective of the association’s research was to examine the impact of in-vehicle information systems (IVIS) interaction on a driver’s cognitive ability while operating a motor vehicle.
The study evaluated the cognitive demands of 10 2015 vehicles’ IVIS products. A total of 257 participants were involved in the study; 127 males and 130 females, broken down into three age categories; young (aged 21-34), middle-aged (35-53) and old (54-70).
There continues to be a debate that voice-activated technology such as those tested by the AAA Research will decrease or at least minimize distracted driving resulting from making a call, answering a call, texting or even checking emails while driving. In its study, AAA put this suggestion to the test. Six specific tasks were given to the research participates who accessed the vehicles’ voice activated system while driving. The tasks included:
– making a call using a contact list
– number dialing
– music selection
The research participants were evaluated after a week of practicing the tasks in the test vehicles. The researchers assessed the cognitive workload of their participants on a 5 point scale with 1 representing no interaction with the IVIS and 5 representing the workload associated with mentally challenging math and memory tasks.
AAA Study Reveals Important Distracted Driving Findings
The research revealed the following major findings:
1. A vehicles IVIS system use by a driver driving resulted in moderate to high levels of cognitive distraction by the driver. The workload ratings associated with the driver’s use of the IVIS system ranged from 2.37 to 4.58. The research further revealed that practice using the in-vehicle system did not eliminate the distraction caused by the IVIS interaction.
2. The study also revealed that older drivers experienced a higher level of cognitive distraction with the vehicle IVIS interaction compared to the middle-aged and younger drivers.
3. AAA’s study also revealed that certain IVIS systems resulted in a considerable difference in the cognitive work load of drivers. As an example, The Chevy Equinox IVIS system had the lowest rating while the Mazda 6’s Connect system had the highest rating on the cognitive workload scale. The research found that simpler, short task time systems resulted in less cognitive distraction.
4. In general, the IVIS systems tested revealed that cognitive distraction associated with these systems was relatively high, suggesting that “hands-free” technology can be very cognitively challenging, more so that a typical cell phone conversation that was rated at 2.3 on the same scale.
5. The research also revealed that drivers continued to be cognitively distracted after terminating the IVIS interaction. When a driver terminated a music selection or a call, they continued to be cognitively impaired 27 seconds after the task was completed.
The completed research is the third phase of AAA’s comprehensive investigation into cognitive distraction. The results show what Young Drivers of Canada continues to teach its students, that hands-free technology can cognitively distract drivers even if their hands are on the wheel! To read the study in its entirety, visit https://www.aaafoundation.org/sites/default/files/strayerIII_FINALREPORT.pdf