AAA says Apple's Siri causes potentially dangerous driver distractions

in iPhone edited November 2014
According to a new study by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, hands- and eyes-free infotainment and smartphone control systems can be dangerously distracting to drivers. And Apple's iOS 7 version of Siri ranks among the worst.

Seeking to ascertain the level of cognitive distraction caused by hands-free systems employed by popular car manufacturers, the assessment ranked ease-of-use for various in-car voice recognition features. Ranked on a five-tier scale, ratings move from minimal distraction at category one to high levels of distraction at category five.

In addition to automakers, the foundation assessed smartphone control capabilities of Apple's Siri virtual assistant running in iOS 7.

"Technologies used in the car that rely on voice communications may have unintended consequences that adversely affect road safety," said AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety's president and CEO Peter Kissinger. "The level of distraction and the impact on safety can vary tremendously based on the task or the system the driver is using."

As seen in the chart above, driving alone accounts for low distraction rates, while using hands-free voice commands for increasingly complex tasks makes for higher distraction rates. While interacting with Siri causes a high level distraction, the results are perhaps unsurprising given the operations test subjects were asked to complete.

As mentioned in the chart's footnotes, as well as the study's findings (PDF link), Siri evaluation comprised sending/receiving texts, updating social media accounts and checking calendar appointments. Although smartphone function access offered by Siri and the iPhone is much more advanced than changing a radio station on an infotainment setup, the foundation applied the identical category rankings to both sets of data.
Researchers used the same metrics to measure a broader range of tasks including using social media, sending texts and updating calendars. The research uncovered that hands- and eyes-free use of Apple's Siri generated a relatively high category 4 level of mental distraction.
As part of the assessment, test subjects were asked to perform a series of nine cognitive tasks in a static environment to create a baseline against which results were measurement. Tests administered included single-task phone operation, car commands, listening to and composing messages and interacting with Siri's above-mentioned features, among others.

Following the baseline exam, subjects took to the road, performing the same operations while driving. Testing equipment quantified a range of feedback cues like heart rate, brain functions and peripheral vision detection and response.

As for OEM solutions, Toyota's Entune was the least distracting with a ranking of 1.7, while Mercedes' COMAND and Ford SYNC with MyFord Touch systems rated near the bottom at 3.1 and 3.0, respectively. Chevrolet's MyLink was the worst performer out of the automotive industry with a rating of 3.7, but managed to outperform the arguably different test set applied to Siri.

"It is clear that not all voice systems are created equal, and today's imperfect systems can lead to driver distraction," said AAA CEO Bob Darbelnet. "AAA is confident that it will be possible to make safer systems in the future."


  • Reply 1 of 89
    b9botb9bot Posts: 238member

    If you are using voice commands then it isn't any worse then any other system that does the same thing. FUD!

  • Reply 2 of 89
    yojimbo007yojimbo007 Posts: 1,165member
    Apple car play will solve most of theses issues
  • Reply 3 of 89
    mstonemstone Posts: 11,510member

    Often when I ask Siri a question she simply shows a list of what she found on the web which is useless when driving. I'm not tempted to read it but I imagine some people are.

  • Reply 4 of 89
    mhiklmhikl Posts: 471member

    So does chewing gum with one’s eyes closed.


    The real problem is that the brain cannot do true multitasking. It’s is a switching on/off system of pseudo-multitasking.


    I discovered this motoring through the mountains on a long tiring journey home. I had taped an “As It Happens” radio interview on the very subject and came to a busier stretch of road where traffic was suddenly coming at me and passing from behind. I had to zip back to understand little parts of the discussion when it dawned on me that my time was better used driving with full focus than fighting the nature of the mind. When the road traffic cleared I completed the programme and lived to tell about it.

    Namaste and care,


  • Reply 5 of 89
    boredumbboredumb Posts: 1,418member

    If the window were just a little wider, you could see the last, most dangerous category:

    "Laughing hysterically at science as presented by AAA".

  • Reply 6 of 89
    rf9rf9 Posts: 70member
    What about all of those people flagging accidents on Waze? ;)
  • Reply 7 of 89
    tallest skiltallest skil Posts: 43,388member

    I love the level of insanity here. I wonder where they’d rank “a conversation” on this chart, since that’s all that Siri is.

  • Reply 8 of 89
    sockrolidsockrolid Posts: 2,789member

    Originally Posted by AppleInsider View Post

    "...  today's imperfect systems can lead to driver distraction," said AAA CEO Bob Darbelnet.


    Wow.  Just wait 'till Bob sees Car Play with all those little icons.

    Major panic attack coming.

  • Reply 9 of 89
    fallenjtfallenjt Posts: 4,056member

    Using Siri only for tasks that you do in normal driving LEGALLY...means making hand=free phone calls without touching the phone...not texting or browsing. 

  • Reply 10 of 89
    They missed out "Nagging wife telling you to slow down, brake, car coming, you're driving too slow all while resisting the urge to unclip her belt, open the door, and tell her to tuck her shoulder in as she rolls" from the list.
  • Reply 11 of 89

    "AAA says Apple's Siri causes potentially dangerous driver distractions"


    False title.


    The report said nothing about Siri being the cause of anything.


    Stupid people were the cause.


    Siri was just innocently in the car when the driver decided to look at something other than the road.

  • Reply 12 of 89
    nagrommenagromme Posts: 2,834member
    Seems like those tests overlap.

    Siri vs. composing messages... what about composing messages WITH Siri?

    Which things is Siri most suited for? Maybe "updating Facebook" is not the most useful test!

    But whatever you do is less safe than you think. Pull over!
  • Reply 13 of 89
    nolamacguynolamacguy Posts: 4,758member
    Originally Posted by Tallest Skil View Post


    I love the level of insanity here. I wonder where they’d rank “a conversation” on this chart, since that’s all that Siri is.

    incorrect. the cognitive load to work abstract processes or workflows (such as composing Facebook posts or emails) w/ a non-human is higher than simply having a conversation w/ a real person on the phone, which is likewise higher than speaking w/ a person sitting next to you, which is higher than speaking w/ someone in front of you. our brains have dedicated an enormous amount of space/bandwidth for high-resolution vision and the visual cortex for processing that data...the further removed from it the more taxing it is on our CPUs to do stuff.


    this is not new science.


    not sure why they did the study on "Siri" by name. did they compare it to other software agents for comparison? is Siri worse than those? possibly, who knows. worth studying tho.

  • Reply 14 of 89
    dasanman69dasanman69 Posts: 13,002member
    nagromme wrote: »
    Seems like those tests overlap.

    Siri vs. composing messages... what about composing messages WITH Siri?

    Which things is Siri most suited for? Maybe "updating Facebook" is not the most useful test!

    But whatever you do is less safe than you think. Pull over!

    'Using Siri' is composed of 5 different tasks. Overlap indeed.
  • Reply 15 of 89
    muadibemuadibe Posts: 135member
    They need to test Siri in iOS 8(02). There seem to be major improvements from iOS 7.
  • Reply 16 of 89
    AAA says that looking out the window is a distraction apparently everything is dandrous soon we won't be able to eat food while driving which apparently is a distraction
  • Reply 17 of 89
    pendergastpendergast Posts: 1,358member
    Dumb study is dumb. Where did they correlate the "distraction" with being dangerous?

    Being mentally distracted doesn't necessarily mean dangerous driving conditions. Maybe missing a turn, or some such. I know when I'm on the phone driving, I don't drive dangerously but have been known to forget where I'm going!

    I would assume things like eating, etc. that remove ones eyes from the road and hands from the wheel are both more common and more dangerous than being absent minded.
  • Reply 18 of 89

    So the less a system does, the lower the score (less distracting). This makes sense to me. Anything that actually requires you to think and process will distract you, whether you're looking at the road or not.


    That said, I'm not sure it's quite fair to indicate the way they did that "Siri is the worst." How did Siri do compared to built-in systems in listening to or replying to text messages? How did it do as compared to built-in navigation systems when requesting and providing guidance to a destination? Lumping a bunch of activities into the Siri column and saying it's very distracting seems a bit disingenuous. It seems ridiculous to me to be updating your Facebook status while driving, for e.g..

  • Reply 19 of 89
    When I'm in the car and I need to text someone, trust me, it's easer to tell Siri to do it than text it myself. This test is way off.. Another useless article.
  • Reply 20 of 89
    slurpyslurpy Posts: 5,385member

    What a crock of horse-shit. Where was this study on Microsoft Sync? Or Android Auto? Or the other 56,201 voice recognition systems built into many cars in the last few years? Oh yeah, those studies wouldn't have generated enough clicks. 


    Yes, using Siri can distract, about as much as talking on the phone while driving. But I can't for the life of me understand why it would be MORE distracting than doing shit tat takes your eyes off the road. 


    I also found this comment astute:



     “Evaluated sending/receiving texts, updating Facebook/Twitter and checking calendar by using voice commands while driving.”

    Seriously? THAT'S what you tested? The only thing on that list I would actually do in the car is send a text, which is extremely easy. "Tell Bob I'm on way." 

    Why not test map navigation, which is equally simple? "Take me to Panera Bread" or "Take me home"

    Why not test music? "Play my Driving playlist"

    You see, AAA wants Siri to fail, because it makes a great headline. If Siri turned out to be good, or even middle of the pack, Mac Rumors and everyone else wouldn't share this headline. It turns out if you attack the most successful company in the world, you get a lot of press. :rolleyes:

    And yeah, as someone else said, their recommendation is probably that you join AAA and use their paper Trip Tik maps, because those aren't at ALL distracting. :eek:


    Yeah, lets test the least common usage scenarios for Siri to push an agenda, instead of the stuff that people will actually use. 

Sign In or Register to comment.