Study: Apple's Siri more distracting to drivers than Google Now, better than Microsoft Cortana

Posted:
in iPhone edited October 2015
As part of an ongoing study on the consequences of using hands- and eyes-free systems while driving, the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety rated Apple's latest version of Siri voice control as "highly distracting," behind Google Now and certain OEM infotainment systems.




From in-house designs developed by car makers to tech industry solutions from Apple, Google and Microsoft, all systems evaluated in the recent AAA assessment were found to cause potentially dangerous levels of distraction. Even the top three performers, Chevy Equinox, Buick Lacrosse and Toyota 4Runner, were categorized as moderately distracting.

Researchers evaluated various hands-free systems by quantifying cognitive impairments demonstrated when issuing voice commands to make calls or change music while driving. Rankings were assigned on an ascending five-point scale split into "mild," "moderate," "high" and "very high" distraction classifications. A category 1 mental distractions equates to listening to music or an audio book, category 2 is equivalent to talking on the phone, while category 3 is similar to sending voice-activated texts. More profound impairments like spending mental effort on updating a social media account are classified as category 4, while category 5 distractions are designed to overload a driver's attention.

While all three smartphone solutions were categorized as highly distractive, Google Now proved least detrimental with a score of 3.0. Siri followed with a score of 3.4, while Cortana verged on "very high distraction" teritory at 3.8. These numbers jumped when it came time to send voice-activated texts, with Google Now rated as a category 3.3 distraction, while Siri and Cortana ranked as category 3.7 and 4.1 distractions, respectively.

"The lasting effects of mental distraction pose a hidden and pervasive danger that would likely come as a surprise to most drivers," said Peter Kissinger, President and CEO of the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety. "The results indicate that motorists could miss stop signs, pedestrians and other vehicles while the mind is readjusting to the task of driving."




Overall, the study found that a driver can be mentally distractions for as long as 27 seconds after performing a hands-free task. Translated to a real-world scenario, a driver traveling at 25 MPH would travel the length of nearly three football fields before regaining full cognitive ability. On the other end of the spectrum, the least distracting systems tested caused impairment for more than 15 seconds after initiating a task, the study found.

AAA's results remain largely unchanged from evaluations performed last year in which Siri on iOS 7 was found to be highly distracting.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 53
    Here's a novel idea...how about staying off the phone while driving! Siri doesn't distract me at all when she is safely tucked away in my glovebox or coat pocket...
  • Reply 2 of 53
    chadbagchadbag Posts: 1,097member
    I would be interested on how they did the test and how they rate "distractedness"
  • Reply 3 of 53
    pendergastpendergast Posts: 1,358member
    How does the distractedness rating correlate with dangerous driving?

    There are many levels of being distracted. For instance, is it likely to cause something minor, like missing your exit? Or something major, like running a stop sign?
  • Reply 4 of 53
    djsherlydjsherly Posts: 1,022member
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by chadbag View Post



    I would be interested on how they did the test and how they rate "distractedness"



    It's linked off the linked article if that makes sense.

  • Reply 5 of 53
    chadbagchadbag Posts: 1,097member
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by djsherly View Post

     



    It's linked off the linked article if that makes sense.




    So it is.  I did find the PDF finally in a side box.  I was looking in the main text.

     

    I find it interesting that the ratings are basically self-fulfilling:

     

    "Previous AAA Foundation research established that a category 1 mental distraction is about the same as listening to the radio or an audio book. A category 2 distraction is about the same as talking on the phone, while category 3 is equivalent to sending voice-activated texts on a perfect, error-free system. Category 4 is similar to updating social media while driving, while category 5 corresponds to a highly-challenging, scientific test designed to overload a driver’s attention."

     

    So they define the level of distractedness by the operation being done and compare against that.   So they assume a voice activated text is distracting since by definition it is a 3.

     

    This is from the linked article and not the actual research paper.

  • Reply 6 of 53
    I'd be more concerned that my constant need to correct Siri would result in a new type of road rage.
  • Reply 7 of 53
    ecatsecats Posts: 272member

    Many people on the road drive terribly even when the road has their full attention. So it's not surprising that adding complexity worsens skill levels.

     

    An important distinction to make is that iOS also offers Carplay and the more basic Siri Eyes Free modes which are designed to be less distracting for drivers.

     

    What I'd also like to see included in a study is a test against driving with loud music, driving while wearing ear phones, and driving with the inclusion of participants children or friends in the vehicle.

     

    I daresay many of these common inclusions lead to significantly more driver interference than adjusting the volume/track on an in-car infotainment system.

  • Reply 8 of 53
    sdw2001sdw2001 Posts: 17,044member
    Such nonsense. I'd love to see what the numbers would have been on my Boomer parents, who smoked, ate and drank coffee out of a regular cup in the car. Don't forget about folding the goddamn map on top of the wheel. Or adjusting the analog radio. Or owning a car without seat belts, much less air bags, center break lights, disc breaks, lane warnings or crumple zones. Just another step to justify more intrusive regulation.
  • Reply 9 of 53
    I'm calling bullshit on this 'study'.

    Clearly they failed to factor and mention that Google is simultaneously raping people while driving with voice features.

    Siri can at least respect the difference between 'no' and 'yes'.
  • Reply 10 of 53
    idreyidrey Posts: 640member
    Well, everybody is different. Just testing a few individuals doesn't give a
    Very definitive answer. A guideline maybe. Some people are great at
    Multitasking, while others are horrible. For some people just talking on the
    Phone is very distracting, and others can do several thing while driving ( which
    They shouldn't be doing) non the less, while driving, people shouldn't be doing
    Other things,
  • Reply 11 of 53
    sdw2001 wrote: »
    Such nonsense. I'd love to see what the numbers would have been on my Boomer parents, who smoked, ate and drank coffee out of a regular cup in the car. Don't forget about folding the goddamn map on top of the wheel. Or adjusting the analog radio. Or owning a car without seat belts, much less air bags, center break lights, disc breaks, lane warnings or crumple zones. Just another step to justify more intrusive regulation.

    These studies are all precursors to more government probing. All the screwed up industries are all the ones that have been heavily regulated: oil, power, medical, telcomm, transportation, etc. Government has compounded the problems in each of these, and then worked to provide regulatory insulation for the crap to continue.

    Time and time again, reality has proven goverment regulation of commerce is not a positive thing, but there's always people who think their next candidate is finally going to get benevolent totalitarianism right.
  • Reply 12 of 53
    evilutionevilution Posts: 1,364member
    Doing anything new is distracting until it becomes 2nd nature through experience.
  • Reply 13 of 53
    slurpyslurpy Posts: 5,173member

    The fucking dangling shit people hang from their rearview mirror in front of the windshield is more distracting than voice control, but noone gives a shit about that. Let's also ignore the fact that almost EVERYONE texts while driving. 

  • Reply 14 of 53
    maestro64maestro64 Posts: 4,642member
    First question did they use people who were already familiar with the nav system or was it the first time they used them. Second did the same people use all systems and third which order did those individuals use the systems.

    Simply puts once you use any nav system for awhile it hardly distracting. It's only when they are new to you are they really an issue, except for the idiots who I always see mounting the GPS or cell phone to three middle of the windshield intent of them.
  • Reply 15 of 53



    I was wondering if there was any explanation/insight given as to what made one smartphone system more distracting than others...

     

    From the Fact Sheet:

     

    "There were significant differences in the distraction experienced by the driver when they used the different smartphones to perform the same tasks in the same driving conditions.


    • Distraction was directly related to the number of system errors, time on task, intuitiveness and complexity of the different systems.

    • ?Generally, robust, error-free systems tend to have lower workload than rigid, error- prone phones; difference in mental workload between the smartphones was associated with the number of system errors, the time to complete an action, and the complexity and intuitiveness of the devices."

     

    Not quite sure what to make of the above, but there it is.

     

    Anyway, from their numbers, it seems to me that Apple, Google, and Microsoft could be considered fairly close. There is a significant difference percentage-wise, but factoring in the study's "95% confidence," and the relatively small (34 subject) sample size, I wonder how much closer it could get.

     

    I also wonder how much familiarity/training might factor in. Would some systems actually be much less distracting with a certain (perhaps minimal) amount of training, but others remain at the same distraction level no matter how much training was applied?

  • Reply 16 of 53
    foggyhillfoggyhill Posts: 4,767member

    The problem I have with that is the way you use google now IS NOT THE SAME.

    So, basically they were NOT TESTING the same thing.

  • Reply 17 of 53
    foggyhillfoggyhill Posts: 4,767member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by RoundaboutNow View Post

     



    I was wondering if there was any explanation/insight given as to what made one smartphone system more distracting than others...

     

    From the Fact Sheet:

     

    "There were significant differences in the distraction experienced by the driver when they used the different smartphones to perform the same tasks in the same driving conditions.


    • Distraction was directly related to the number of system errors, time on task, intuitiveness and complexity of the different systems.

    • ?Generally, robust, error-free systems tend to have lower workload than rigid, error- prone phones; difference in mental workload between the smartphones was associated with the number of system errors, the time to complete an action, and the complexity and intuitiveness of the devices."

     

    Not quite sure what to make of the above, but there it is.

     

    Anyway, from their numbers, it seems to me that Apple, Google, and Microsoft could be considered fairly close. There is a significant difference percentage-wise, but factoring in the study's "95% confidence," and the relatively small (34 subject) sample size, I wonder how much closer it could get.

     

    I also wonder how much familiarity/training might factor in. Would some systems actually be much less distracting with a certain (perhaps minimal) amount of training, but others remain at the same distraction level no matter how much training was applied?


     

    With such a small sample and they not testing the same thing really (which is really really annoying), the error must be huge.

    These are also qualitative studies, not quantitative. So, declaring such precision is EVEN MORE ABSURD

    So, basically, hey!

     

    Why not use a road simulator and actually do testing of 100 random people from a target group under very strict and repeatable condition after training them a long time on those system. Say a week, so they are very familiar with them.

     

    In this test, you'd have to see who goes into the ditch, or runs over something in the simulator.

    That's the only way of truly assessing distraction; somebody saying something plus or less distracting doesn't cut/

     

    Familiarity with something here makes a huge different in how distracting it is.

     

    You maybe could say Cortana is probably more distracting than Google now, but again you'd have to do the test I'm suggesting to be sure.

     

    It's also possible that Cortana and Siri is less distracting for more complex queries (because they're AI is different than Google now). 

     

    This test doesn't really demonstrate ANYTHING except talking to come system while your on the road is distracting... Well, duh.

  • Reply 18 of 53

    well, good thing they are making self driving cars then, because apparently humans are so stupid they cannot give a phone a command without going off the road. 

  • Reply 19 of 53

    I was wondering if there was any explanation/insight given as to what made one smartphone system more distracting than others...

    From the Fact Sheet:


    "There were significant differences in the distraction experienced by the driver when they used the different smartphones to perform the same tasks in the same driving conditions.
    • Distraction was directly related to the number of system errors, time on task, intuitiveness and complexity of the different systems.
    • ?Generally, robust, error-free systems tend to have lower workload than rigid, error- prone phones; difference in mental workload between the smartphones was associated with the number of system errors, the time to complete an action, and the complexity and intuitiveness of the devices."


    Not quite sure what to make of the above, but there it is.

    Anyway, from their numbers, it seems to me that Apple, Google, and Microsoft could be considered fairly close. There is a significant difference percentage-wise, but factoring in the study's "95% confidence," and the relatively small (34 subject) sample size, I wonder how much closer it could get.

    I also wonder how much familiarity/training might factor in. Would some systems actually be much less distracting with a certain (perhaps minimal) amount of training, but others remain at the same distraction level no matter how much training was applied?

    So if you had a bunch of android users testing the phones they would not be as familiar with the use of other devices so their distraction level would naturally be higher.
    I think this is a scam. Since it can easily be made into what ever result you want by selecting the users.
  • Reply 20 of 53
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by SDW2001 View Post



    Such nonsense. I'd love to see what the numbers would have been on my Boomer parents, who smoked, ate and drank coffee out of a regular cup in the car. Don't forget about folding the goddamn map on top of the wheel. Or adjusting the analog radio. Or owning a car without seat belts, much less air bags, center break lights, disc breaks, lane warnings or crumple zones. Just another step to justify more intrusive regulation.

    This is not from the 1960's, 70's, 80's or 90's but it still might be relevant for some of the information you are seeking:

     

    Link: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Distracted_driving

     

    Exposure assessment[edit]

    According to the US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), in 2008, nearly 11% of drivers—approximately one million individuals—used a mobile device at some time. Additionally, 35-50% of drivers admit to cell phone use while driving, while 90% of drivers fear those who do.[5]

    Some foods and drinks can lead to dangerous distractions. McKeel Hagerty, president of Hagerty Classic Insurance Company, did a study to find out which foods were the worst to try to consume while driving. Coffee was the top offender because of its tendency to spill even if in a cup with a travel lid. Hot soup was second followed by tacos and chili. Hamburgers and barbecued food came in fifth and sixth. Eating while driving is not only dangerous, it’s messy and it means you’re not watching the road.[6]

    According to a HealthDay poll from November 2011, most adults who drive admit to engaging in distracted driving behaviors. This poll, which included 2,800 American adults, found that:


    • Approximately 86% of drivers have admitted to eating or drinking while driving.

    • Approximately 37% of drivers have texted while driving at least once, while 18% of drivers have said they have formed the habit of doing it often.

    • Approximately 41% of adult drivers have set or changed a GPS system while driving, and 21% do it “more frequently.”

    • Approximately 36% of adult drivers have used a map as road guidance while driving.

    • At least 20% drivers have admitted to combing or styling their hair while driving.

    • Approximately 14% of drivers have applied makeup while driving.

    • Approximately 13% of adult drivers have browsed the Internet while driving.[2]

    Data from this poll also revealed that younger drivers have a greater tendency to be involved in distracted driving than older individuals. Additionally, males have a greater tendency to engage in distracted driving activities, including driving while drowsy, after drinking alcohol, while reading a map, using a GPS system, or using the Internet.

     

     

    Bold emphasis is mine.

     

    Distracted driving is distracted driving. We don't need new laws or regulations. Simply enforce the distracted driving laws that have existed for years. 

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