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Flaw in distracted driving study: no evaluation of Apple's "Eyes Free" Siri mode

post #1 of 42
Thread Starter 
A widely publicized study that reported that voice assistants like Apple's Siri aren't any safer than manually texting while driving failed to test Siri as it was actually designed to be used in its distracted driving experiment.

Siri Eyes Free
Source: Apple


The study, conducted by Texas A&M Transportation Institute, noted that drivers on a closed course holding a smartphone in one hand while interacting with Siri (or Vlingo, a similar service for Android smartphones) took nearly twice as long to respond to an external testing event.

Specifically, the study said researchers installed a green LED light on the subjects' vehicle dashboard, "and drivers were instructed to press a button every time they saw it come on. Their response times served as a measure of their distraction levels."

The study's author Christine Yager subsequently concluded that voice-to-text services "do not increase driver safety compared to manual texting."

In response to the experiment, a report by Xconomy noted that the study was flawed because the way Siri was tested is not how it is intended to be used.

Holding Siri is not handsfree



"I don?t think that there is any evidence that shows that if Siri and other systems are used properly in Eyes Free mode, they are ?just as risky as texting," stated Adam Cheyer, a cofounder of the project Apple acquired in 2010 to release Siri as a feature of the iPhone 4S. Cheyer left Apple last year.

Cheyer added "Of course your driving performance is going to be degraded if you?re reading screens and pushing buttons," and explained that Siri's designers took special efforts to create a driving-appropriate mode that was not only handsfree, but also "Eyes Free" as Apple has branded it.

When Siri is used with a Bluetooth headset or other speakers as a handsfree phone, it automatically enters into a safer mode that limits interactions to be voice only. "It assumes you are ?eyes-busy? and responds differently," Cheyer said.

"My goal is not to knock this particular study," the report cited Cheyer as saying. "I?m just dismayed that the message being communicated by news media -- that 'Siri is just as risky as texting' -- is misleading."

Responding to the criticism of her study, Yager said "we tested the applications in a way that is consistent with how many drivers typically use them," and added, "we examined the product information contained in the packaging for the iPhone 4S, and were not able to find information related to the directed mode use of the device."

Media coverage of the distracted driving study didn't distinguish between the test's evaluation of manually using Siri as voice-driven way to text and drive, and using Siri as it is intended to be used, both handsfree and "Eyes Free" while driving.

Eyes Free


Eyes Free key to Apple's automotive strategy for iOS



Six months ago, AppleInsider noted how automotive integration has become a driving feature of Apple's mobile iOS platform.

Eyes Free


Advancing alongside a federal push to call attention to the problem of distracted driving, Apple's Eyes Free design for Siri is intended not only to make accessing directions or other information safer while driving, but also to facilitate easy integration for car manufacturers.

Since Apple announced the push, a series of car manufacturers have signed on to enable one button access to Siri in a way that makes the voice assistant available without distracting the driver with a visual, hands-occupying interface.

Siri's Eyes Free is the culmination of a decade of Apple's car integration efforts that began with the iPod. Last year, Apple enhanced Siri with even tighter integration to Maps, putting Apple into more direct competition with Google in both mapping and voice based search.

Google efforts to leverage its early lead in maps and voice-based services to duplicate Apple's Siri features are complicated by the fact that the company currently relies on popup advertising banners to support its technology. A Siri-like service will be hard to monetize with ads when users want distraction free, audible information.
post #2 of 42
Any distractions while driving are a danger. Dilger, you're stretching more than usual.

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post #3 of 42

Under many jurisdictions, you can't even hold a phone while driving.

 

This study is flawed in that it's limited to the handheld scenario.

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post #4 of 42
I don't believe the study for a different reason: If you are not looking at the phone, what difference could it make whether the phone is in your hand or on the dashboard? And before you answer "Then your hands are not at 10 and 2", the old "10 and 2" hand position style of driving was recently discredited too.

I smell a "study" that reached its conclusion first and then went in search of ways of making the data match, instead of being empirical.
post #5 of 42
Quote:
Originally Posted by SpamSandwich View Post

Any distractions while driving are a danger. Dilger, you're stretching more than usual.

I think his point is valid. If you only testing Siri by having the driver hold the phone with one hand whilst driving instead of having their hands on the steering wheel. There is also a natural proclivity to look at the display of the device you're holding, especially if you know it's displaying results on screen. Now I don't know if the local Siri software is intelligent enough to know that if you ask, "how many ounces in a liter?" to not display the Wolfram Alpha results on the iDevice screen but to speak a simplified result over the speaker system, but that is beside the point in regards to these tests.

Now I agree that any distractions can be a danger. After all, by definition a distraction is "a thing that prevents someone from giving full attention to something else" but I don't agree with any assertion that Siri integrated into a car and Siri via an iDevice directly in one's hand should be seen the same way. I'd say changing the radio or adjusting the climate control from the dash controls are more of a distraction than pressing the Siri button from the steering wheel, yet we still give drivers legal access to those functions in automobiles.

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post #6 of 42
Quote:
Originally Posted by ktappe View Post

I don't believe the study for a different reason: If you are not looking at the phone, what difference could it make whether the phone is in your hand or on the dashboard? And before you answer "Then your hands are not at 10 and 2", the old "10 and 2" hand position style of driving was recently discredited too.

I smell a "study" that reached its conclusion first and then went in search of ways of making the data match, instead of being empirical.

That assumes people aren't looking at their iPhone's display. Since it's the most common way to engage an iPhone it probably takes some additional cognitive effort to actively not look at the iPhone in your hand that you're actively using.

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post #7 of 42
Quote:
Originally Posted by ktappe View Post

I don't believe the study for a different reason: If you are not looking at the phone, what difference could it make whether the phone is in your hand or on the dashboard? And before you answer "Then your hands are not at 10 and 2", the old "10 and 2" hand position style of driving was recently discredited too.

I smell a "study" that reached its conclusion first and then went in search of ways of making the data match, instead of being empirical.

 

Which hand do you use to press the button on the dash?

 

The one on the steering wheel or the one holding the device?

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post #8 of 42
Quote:
Originally Posted by hill60 View Post

Under many jurisdictions, you can't even hold a phone while driving.

This study is flawed in that it's limited to the handheld scenario.

It's like that in LA but it stops no one. The traffic cams are all turned off it seems cause no one is ever actually caught running red lights, eating etc with a hand off the wheel. Perhaps if those cams were turned back on and folks are ticketed crap would slow down

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post #9 of 42
Quote:
Originally Posted by hill60 View Post

Under many jurisdictions, you can't even hold a phone while driving.

This study is flawed in that it's limited to the handheld scenario.

It's like that in LA but it stops no one. The traffic cams are all turned off it seems cause no one is ever actually caught running red lights, eating etc with a hand off the wheel. Perhaps if those cams were turned back on and folks are ticketed crap would slow down

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post #10 of 42
Quote:
Originally Posted by ktappe View Post

I don't believe the study for a different reason: If you are not looking at the phone, what difference could it make whether the phone is in your hand or on the dashboard? And before you answer "Then your hands are not at 10 and 2", the old "10 and 2" hand position style of driving was recently discredited too.

I smell a "study" that reached its conclusion first and then went in search of ways of making the data match, instead of being empirical.

I believe there are flaws with the study, but in answer to your question; it has nothing to do with whether your eyes are looking at what's in your hand or not.

I can drive with an ice cream cone in one hand without ever looking at it. And it's absolutely a distraction.

post #11 of 42
How about voice activation just by saying "Siri" in Driving Mode? Old tape recorders had this, I can't see why smart phone don't.
post #12 of 42
Quote:
Originally Posted by SolipsismX View Post


I think his point is valid. If you only testing Siri by having the driver hold the phone with one hand whilst driving instead of having their hands on the steering wheel. There is also a natural proclivity to look at the display of the device you're holding, especially if you know it's displaying results on screen. Now I don't know if the local Siri software is intelligent enough to know that if you ask, "how many ounces in a liter?" to not display the Wolfram Alpha results on the iDevice screen but to speak a simplified result over the speaker system, but that is beside the point in regards to these tests.

Now I agree that any distractions can be a danger. After all, by definition a distraction is "a thing that prevents someone from giving full attention to something else" but I don't agree with any assertion that Siri integrated into a car and Siri via an iDevice directly in one's hand should be seen the same way. I'd say changing the radio or adjusting the climate control from the dash controls are more of a distraction than pressing the Siri button from the steering wheel, yet we still give drivers legal access to those functions in automobiles.

 

I concede, it's debatable how much distraction a driver can safely handle, but fewer distractions and especially fewer distractions that require the driver's attention away from the road would be better. I look forward to the day Google's driving tech is widely adopted and faces a multitude of competitors to speed refinement via free market competition.

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post #13 of 42
Quote:
Originally Posted by SolipsismX View Post

 
I think his point is valid. If you only testing Siri by having the driver hold the phone with one hand whilst driving instead of having their hands on the steering wheel. 

Not only were they holding the device the were instructed to press another button (On the dash? It didn't say where the green light button was). I wonder which hand they used for that activity.

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post #14 of 42
Quote:
Originally Posted by SpamSandwich View Post

I concede, it's debatable how much distraction a driver can safely handle, but fewer distractions and especially fewer distractions that require the driver's attention away from the road would be better. I look forward to the day Google's driving tech is widely adopted and faces a multitude of competitors to speed refinement via free market competition.

I wonder if laws will eventually change to allow open container in driver-less vehicles.

Quote:
Originally Posted by mstone View Post

Not only were they holding the device the were instructed to press another button (On the dash? It didn't say where the green light button was). I wonder which hand they used for that activity.

I didn't even pick up on that until your post despite having read hill60's comment before yours.

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post #15 of 42
Quote:
Originally Posted by SpamSandwich View Post

I concede, it's debatable how much distraction a driver can safely handle, but fewer distractions and especially fewer distractions that require the driver's attention away from the road would be better. 

Even when someone is holding the device to their ear while driving it is often easy to tell they are distracted. You see them tailgating or driving slowly or erratically. I can spot them a mile away and sometimes and say to myself, 'there is another person talking on the phone while driving'... Hands free is probably a bit better but a distraction with the conversation itself is often enough to compromise safety. Somehow having a conversation with someone who is actually in the car is not as distracting.

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post #16 of 42
Quote:
Originally Posted by SpamSandwich View Post

Any distractions while driving are a danger. Dilger, you're stretching more than usual.

 

It's entirely valid to say "holding your iPhone in your hand to use Siri to do tasks while driving is not significantly safer than texting while driving."

 

It's pretty bad science to set up an "experiment" where the desired conclusion is just being reaffirmed in a pointless "test" in order to announce that "Siri is as dangerous as texting while driving!!!"

 

The problem is not glancing at a phone on occasion. Drivers routinely glance at the dashboard indicators (like the speedometer!), radio and climate controls without causing a big uptick in accidents. The problem is focusing on a hand held device, particularly one you have to navigate with the full attention of one hand and most of your concentration. 

Holding a phone in one hand and blindly dictating a question into it (such as "give me directions to Pizza Hut") is clearly vastly safer than trying to manually type in the same thing while looking at the screen. But its even safer to keep your hands on the wheel, push a button, and speak with your eyes on the road, and then follow voice navigation directions entirely hands free and eyes free.

 

This was pretty clearly worthless research intended to create a stupid headline that muddies, rather than clarifying, reality.

post #17 of 42

I wish cars had a feature that detected what the current speed limit was and either played a tone or turned on a light on the speedometer or something to notify the driver. Some people speed accidentally and this would be helpful. Of course those who choose to speed would probably find it annoying, but nevertheless it would be very simple technologically either by using RFID or just GPS and a smart map that knew the speed limit of all streets. For example the Nissan R already has a similar feature where the automobile will not go faster than 180 MPH? unless it is on an approved Nissan racetrack of which there are only a few and it knows the GPS coordinates of those tracks.

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post #18 of 42
Quote:
Originally Posted by mstone View Post

I wish cars had a feature that detected what the current speed limit was and either played a tone or turned on a light on the speedometer or something to notify the driver. Some people speed accidentally and this would be helpful. Of course those who choose to speed would probably find it annoying, but nevertheless it would be very simple technologically either by using RFID or just GPS and a smart map that knew the speed limit of all streets. For example the Nissan R already has a similar feature where the automobile will not go faster than 180 MPH? unless it is on an approved Nissan racetrack of which there are only a few and it knows the GPS coordinates of those tracks.

i think all Garmin and Tom Tom GPS have that feature built-in.

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post #19 of 42
Quote:
Originally Posted by SolipsismX View Post


I wonder if laws will eventually change to allow open container in driver-less vehicles.

 

I believe that eventually could be possible, though the current laws say a driver must be in the vehicle and be able to take over the controls if necessary.


Edited by SpamSandwich - 5/1/13 at 4:25pm

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post #20 of 42

Many years ago, just playing with the radio while driving was considered distracting and dangerous.

Anyone that thinks that they can text, talk on a phone handless or not is deluding themselves if they think some of their reflexes are not affected.

 

Cars a dangerous and using one merits ones undivided attention for the safety of others.

post #21 of 42
I could not figure out how to use your phone properly, so I graded it unsatisfactory based on improper usage.

So how can we take your study seriously, when you are not even smart enough to conduct the study properly?
post #22 of 42
Quote:
Originally Posted by See Flat View Post

Many years ago, just playing with the radio while driving was considered distracting and dangerous.

Anyone that thinks that they can text, talk on a phone handless or not is deluding themselves if they think some of their reflexes are not affected.

 

Cars a dangerous and using one merits ones undivided attention for the safety of others.

This is the start up screen in my BMW.

 

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post #23 of 42
Pushing a button with a phone in your hand is difficult. This is the only reasonable finding from this study.

I can swerve the car to avoid an accident with the one hand on the wheel. To push a button on the dashboard I either have to put the phone down or let the wheel go. This is just one of many flaws. Given the danger their methods posed to participants (encouraging the drivers to let go of the steering wheel), the other significant finding for this study is how lax IRB standards are at A&M.
post #24 of 42
Quote:
Originally Posted by lightstriker View Post

How about voice activation just by saying "Siri" in Driving Mode? Old tape recorders had this, I can't see why smart phone don't.

@lightstriker: Agreed! Talkler - Email for your Ears - is designed to operate exactly this way. Say "Hey, Talkler" to get the app's attention. No buttons to press. 

post #25 of 42
Quote:
Originally Posted by lightstriker View Post

How about voice activation just by saying "Siri" in Driving Mode? Old tape recorders had this, I can't see why smart phone don't.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Talkler View Post

@lightstriker: Agreed! Talkler - Email for your Ears - is designed to operate exactly this way. Say "Hey, Talkler" to get the app's attention. No buttons to press. 

I don't think anyone disagrees with that as a concept. The problem is the technology doesn't even seem close to being ready to mirror Star Trek's voice activated computer system. How will Siri know that you didn't just use the word series or sorry or cereal, depending on your accent? How will Siri know that you're not talking to someone else in the car about Siri? How will Siri know when you are speaking and not something coming from the radio? At some point I think we'll get there but the system will need to be much more intelligent than how all commercial speech-to-text systems work.

As for "old tape recorders had this" I have never heard of such a thing. I am familiar with tape recorder that will auto-record once it detect sound, but not any that will ignore all sounds until a specific voice command key is given.
Edited by SolipsismX - 5/1/13 at 6:39pm

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post #26 of 42

Oh, your hands are free? Congratulations, your head's still up your ass.

post #27 of 42
Another concern: The original study badly confuses different types of speech technology.
 
The original study fails to distinguish between response times for text-to-speech tasks (user listens) vs. response times for speech recognition tasks (user speaks).
 
The original study also fails to differentiate between voice COMMANDS vs. voice DICTATION. Voice commands are utterances that draw on a small library of possible words, and can be "heads-up" because they require no proofing (e.g., user says "Reply" or "Cancel"). Voice dictation is the process of speaking a message using almost any common words in the language, and do require eyes off the road to proof the message before sending. Voice dictation also requires a special form of spoken dictation, such as "I am running ten minutes late period would you mind starting without me question mark." If you've ever tried using dictation software, you know that it requires some skill and concentration to create cogent messages.
 
The author examines 3 different types of tasks: Send Only, Read & Reply, and Read Only. However, when publishing her response time data, she lumps together response times for the tasks that require speaking (speech recognition) and those that require listening (text-to-speech). She also lumps together results for voice command tasks (no proofing required) with results for voice dictation tasks (eyes must leave the road to proof before sending, and user must concentrate on special spoken punctuation plus message syntax).
 
Many in the popular media have followed suit in lumping together all speech technologies and declaring them all unsafe. It's a bit like declaring all driver activities to be unsafe and distracting — whether it's talking to a passenger, glancing at the speedometer, glancing at the GPS, listening to news on the radio, singing along to the radio, or listening to your messages read aloud to you. 
 
In our efforts to design Talkler - Email for your Ears - to be as safe as possible, we were diligent about keeping it heads-up, hands-off, and as easy as conversing with your friend in the front seat.
post #28 of 42
A link to your app would be helpful. It wasn't clear with the first post that you had an app.

http://talkler.com/

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post #29 of 42
I'd like these folks to run the exact same tests with a mother in law giving directions ...
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post #30 of 42
Quote:
Originally Posted by SolipsismX View Post

I wonder if laws will eventually change to allow open container in driver-less vehicles.

Why not? Not much difference from riding the restaurant car on a train when you think about it. My worry is the driver-less car taking me to god knows where like my Garmin has tried on numerous occasions. At least sober I can see it's gone bonkers. 1biggrin.gif
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post #31 of 42
Quote:
Originally Posted by ktappe View Post

I don't believe the study for a different reason: If you are not looking at the phone, what difference could it make whether the phone is in your hand or on the dashboard? And before you answer "Then your hands are not at 10 and 2", the old "10 and 2" hand position style of driving was recently discredited too.

 

All the best drivers wrap one angry fist around around the wheel at the 12 o'clock position to better mow down drivers in their way.

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post #32 of 42
Quote:
Originally Posted by hill60 View Post

Which hand do you use to press the button on the dash?

The one on the steering wheel or the one holding the device?
Eyes free uses a steering wheel button
post #33 of 42
Could eyes free work with the speakers of the car(here response? This test just further shows some users have different reactions to everything.
post #34 of 42
Quote:
Originally Posted by hill60 View Post

 

Which hand do you use to press the button on the dash?

 

The one on the steering wheel or the one holding the device?


Exactly! Having to clear a hand before you push a button necessarily slows down your response time.

 

This study would have been a perfect opportunity to clarify whether actual handsfree usage made any actual difference in response times. They should have at least tested actual handsfree mode, preferably both. It almost seems like they had an agenda.

post #35 of 42
"Now I don't know if the local Siri software is intelligent enough to know that if you ask, "how many ounces in a liter?" to not display the Wolfram Alpha results on the iDevice screen but to speak a simplified result over the speaker system, but that is beside the point in regards to these tests."

On the contrary, it's exactly the point! In "car mode," which is what is activated by using a hands-free headset, Siri speaks her responses back to you specifically so that you don't have to look at the screen. There are also additional voice commands so that it is truly hands-free. This study failed to use the appropriate "car mode" so of course its results are unreliable.
post #36 of 42

As a person who has been using hands free systems for almost 10 yrs, it does not mater what the systems you use they all are distracting to some level. I personally used ones from Motorola as well as the ones built in to cars as in the BMW system as well as the SYNC used by Ford. Oh yeah I have played with Siri as well. I speak from lots of personal experience and I am a very good defensive driver and I can tell you any system you use which uses voice prompts still requires more attention than what people think.

 

The simple fact of talking on a phone while driving creates enough of a distraction which can easily cause you to miss what is going on around you in the car. Now add in the fact you trying to interact with a system to listen or respond to text messages or some other activity like trying to find a bank or gas station. it all requires attention and your ability to process information. 

 

What most people do not realize when just driving along, You brain is doing huge amounts of analysis and processing, in some case you could be doing 5 to 10 things at one time. such as seeing, listening, moving your left and right foot differently, also moving your left and right hands different as well as possible feeling what if happening with the car. If you are driving correctly your sensor systems are dealing with lots of different things at the same time, then add in trying to interact with a cell phone.

 

Because of this I limit as in car use of my cell phone, I personally never use it when driving on new roads or places I am not familiar. I also do not use it when there is too much traffic on the roads since you never know what someone is going to do. People needs to stop entertaining themselves while the drive and just drive.

post #37 of 42
Quote:
Originally Posted by See Flat View Post

Many years ago, just playing with the radio while driving was considered distracting and dangerous.

Anyone that thinks that they can text, talk on a phone handless or not is deluding themselves if they think some of their reflexes are not affected.

 

Cars a dangerous and using one merits ones undivided attention for the safety of others.

And during that same time period, there were no arrogant lawmakers and idiot people who would accept invasive LAWS that attempt to control your behavior.

 

I despise all laws related to drive distraction. They are unconstitutional from the get-go, and serve no real purpose. They don't prevent people from engaging in distracting behavior...all they do is criminalize people for non-criminal behavior.

post #38 of 42
No two ways about it -- Apple is doomed!
/s
post #39 of 42
The Texas study is one of several released in the last 6 months that reiterate Speech to Text is as bad as regular Text and Drive. Dr Strayer has been studying this for 10 years at the University of Utah and his findings confirm the Speech to Text assessment. (Ref: http://www.gocognitive.net/video/david-strayer-driver-distraction-and-cell-phones )

Other studies include: http://www.vanguardngr.com/2013/03/using-handsfree-texting-behind-the-wheel-as-dangerous-as-drinking-and-driving/

Or watch an independent reporter from Oregon assess it: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oPzT1rqVtL0

I think the technology is cool... and has value helping, for example, blind people read - like Amazon is using it for on their Kindles... but just because its cool doesn't mean its appropriate behind the wheel and science is starting to make this evident.

Erik Wood
post #40 of 42
Maybe they ignored Siri because, in my experience at least, it doesn't work whilst driving. I have tried to use it several times and been frustrated every time. The first problem is that the car noise means that it often doesn't pick up what I've said properly, the second problem is that the network signal whilst driving is rarely good enough to send the request off to Apple's servers. I can only speak for my own experience, but I've found it to be absolutely useless as a hands free assistant whilst driving. It's a shame, as I had high hopes for it.
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  • Flaw in distracted driving study: no evaluation of Apple's "Eyes Free" Siri mode
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