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Study: Voice-activated devices can be distracting

New technology has made it possible for drivers to operate certain functions in their vehicles by simply speaking commands. Voice-activated technology is designed to minimize manual and visual distractions by allowing drivers to perform certain tasks, such as changing the radio station, making phone calls and composing texts, by speaking. Many manufacturers have incorporated this technology into their vehicles. While voice-activated devices help to reduce manual and visual distractions, however, researchers looked into whether it helps with cognitive workload

In the study released by AAA, researchers asked participants to drive through a closed course while performing certain tasks using voice-activated technology. Six systems were tested in all. While drivers were engaged in the tasks, researchers measured their cognitive workload by observing reaction times, brain activity and heart rate. They also asked participants how distracted they felt while completing the study. The results showed the even while drivers could keep their hands on the steering wheel to initiate and complete tasks, their focus was taken off driving and the road. This, in turn, causes delayed reaction times and makes it difficult for drivers to respond to other hazards, such as objects in the road, bad weather conditions, other drivers, stop lights and pedestrian crosswalks. 

The study also showed that some in-car technologies were more complicated to use than others and flaws in the systems caused greater distractions for some. Researchers determined that by perfecting voice-activated technology and eliminating some of the errors that occur could help reduce cognitive distraction levels and make it safer for drivers to use.



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