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You are here: MacNN Forums > News > Tech News > AAA ranks Siri as extreme distraction for drivers

AAA ranks Siri as extreme distraction for drivers
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MacNN Staff
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Oct 7, 2014, 04:40 PM
Even though Apple's Siri is meant to simplify smartphone commands and in some cases enable hands-free control, it's in fact a severe distraction for drivers, according to a study from the AAA's Foundation for Traffic Safety. The group studied 45 drivers, asking them to accomplish various tasks using native in-car voice systems as well as Siri. Real and simulated cars were used; for Siri, people were given an iPhone 5 with iOS 7, as well as a microphone. Siri users were asked to make phone calls, send and receive texts, update Facebook and Twitter, and check their calendar. Other voice systems were tested with tasks like adjusting the radio, listening to and composing messages, and navigating simple and complex menus.

"Common issues involved inconsistencies in which Siri would produce different responses to seemingly identical commands," the Foundation says. "In other circumstances, Siri required exact phrases to accomplish specific tasks, and subtle deviations from that phrasing would result in a failure.

"When there was a failure to properly dictate a message, it required starting over, since there was no way to modify/edit a message or command," AAA continues. "Siri also made mistakes such as calling someone other than the desired person from the phone contact list. Some participants also reported frustration with Siri's occasional sarcasm and wit." The technology even resulted in two crashes during simulator testing.

It's suggested that while Siri can improve over time as it learns a person's voice, Apple may need to reduce complexity through software changes. The company may in fact be attempting to improve in-car experiences through CarPlay, but so far only some Ferraris and aftermarket Pioneer receivers support the standard, and it is not a voice-based platform. Critics have pointed out that the study is likely biased, as AAA FTS group has always been a vocal critic of all manner of computer-based or texting-based systems in automobiles.

The AAA is hoping to create a set of voluntary guidelines and encourage people to avoid using any voice-based systems. Even native systems can result in "significant impairments" that may "adversely affect traffic safety," it claims.

( Last edited by NewsPoster; Oct 16, 2014 at 01:03 AM. )
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Oct 7, 2014, 04:45 PM
I think "make[ing] phone calls, send[ing] and receiv[ing] texts, updat[ing] Facebook and Twitter, and check[ing] their calendar," are the dangerous activities, not the method in which they're done.
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Oct 7, 2014, 05:19 PM
It's a pity that the AAA can't produce a meaningful graph. A simple bar chart - without knowing the scale - is useless. Is using Siri really about 40% more difficult that adjusting the heat or radio?

Add to that their stated goal of removing voice assistance systems from being used in cars, and I think the whole "study" is pretty shaky and seems to be mostly fear-mongering.
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Oct 7, 2014, 05:37 PM
why in the world would someone update Facebook and/or twitter while driving? Are there really morons out there doing this?
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Oct 7, 2014, 05:50 PM
Where is putting on makeup, smoking, drinking diet Pepsi's, yelling at kids in the back seat, shaving, eating Big Macs and all the really distracting things people do all the time. Quit focusing on phones, focus on all the acceptable distractions people get away with.
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Oct 7, 2014, 05:53 PM
I think they forgot to test GarageBand editing.. did they only test advanced functions with Siri? I don't think it's fair at all... checking facebook and sending twitter? it makes it sound like siri is bad but they didn't test with other systems...
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Oct 7, 2014, 06:49 PM
I suspect all the AAA has proved is that Siri, like any new technology, has a learning curve.
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Oct 7, 2014, 08:17 PM
Well I find Siri a 50-50 bet at best. It is indeed frustrating to have to start over or hear Siri mistake simple words like "court" for something else, time & again. In fact, most tasks, like pulling over reading then responding to a text, are quicker than getting Siri to accomplish the same thing.

Worse is the speaking method in which you have to state certain commands or requests..."Siri, play the Artist Maroon 5" instead of "Siri, I wanna hear the new Maroon 5 album"...Microsoft's Cortana does just that!

Now none of this is going to make me switch phones, or leave the other great iOS features. But for now, I'm not the least impressed with Siri.
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Oct 7, 2014, 10:53 PM
I had to turn Siri off - she never responded properly to my come-ons!
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Oct 7, 2014, 11:03 PM
I was a passenger in a car in Sonoma Valley (California) and the question was posed to Siri by voice from the driver, "Restaurants near Sebastopol." Siri replied, "Cannot find restaurants in Sevastopol, Ukraine".

"Restaurants near me" returned an In-N-Out in another direction, with Siri asking, "Do you want me to make a reservation for you?"
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Oct 8, 2014, 11:22 AM
Siri on iPhone is NOT Apple Car Play. Therefore, this might be interested if you use the iPhone in lieu of Car Play, but really not relevant. It would have been interesting to see AAA use Android and MS versions on Siri on their phones to get better understanding of phone needs.

Unfortunately, this point is generally a footnote or completely overlooked in the press.
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Oct 8, 2014, 01:03 PM
The simple solution for this is to catch young drivers in their youth.

[1] Update all driver's manuals (e.g. the rules of the road) showing precisely the statistics on distraction due to personal electrons, and explain why each distraction could lead to an accident and/or your own death on the road.

[2] Have tentative new drivers read the updated manual, then take a very stringent written test with a component on distraction from personal electronics. Along with the written test, have them watch a short video (something like a bunch of dramatizations), and then write a brief essay explaining each staged incident and explain how that will be relevant to helping them avoid accidents on the road. The essay would be pass/fail.

[3] Then go through the usual process of driving with a permit and have a licensed passenger with them. For every hour the passenger records, both the new and licensed persons should sign their names, indicating that no personal electronics were used during the entire trip. (There is no guarantee of honesty or proof but it's still official.)

[4] Have the new driver schedule a road test. If the new driver passes, have the new driver sign a document swearing not to get distracted by personal electronics while behind the wheel. This final reminder should also serve as an official federal document should the new driver ever get into an accident. Police should have 24/7 access to such documents in case someone gets pulled over. The penalty for causing an accident due to distraction involving personal electronics would be suspension.

[5] For all drivers of passenger cars, buses, trucks, etc.: This document must be made mandatory and a signature required for every renewal of a license.
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