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Drivers warned: Don’t Siri and Drive!

Apple’s Siri voice assistant can be more distracting than talking on a handheld or hands-free phone call whilst controlling a motor vehicle according to a new study into how distracting in-car technologies are to drivers.

Read more: The near future of in-car HMI technology

AAA’s Foundation for Traffic Safety found that hands and eye free use of Apple Siri “generated a relatively high category 4 level of mental distraction” that is more than that attributed to handheld or hands-free mobile use.

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

AAA measured Siri against a range of tasks including using social media, sending texts and updating calendars with the end result an average of all those put together.

The group’s five category rating system found that in-car systems with a low accuracy or reliability have a high level of distraction [category 3], composing text messages using in-car technology scored a category 3 whilst using the same system to listen to messages was rated as category 2.

As a way of comparison the AAA tested other in-car activities, reporting that listening to the radio was a category 1 distraction, talking a handheld or hands-free mobile was in category 2, and using an error-free speech-to-text system to compose messages is a category 3 distraction.

The study wants developers to improve the safety of hands-free products by making them less complicated, more accurate and easier use so that customers can use them safely whilst driving.

It also ranked the various in-car systems already out there with Toyota Entune coming out on top with a 1.7 rating followed by Hyundai Blue Link [2.2], Chrysler Uconnect [2.7], Ford SYNC with MyFord Touch [3.0], Mercedes COMAND [3.1], and Chevrolet MyLink [3.7].

Read more: A closer look at how Apple’s CarPlay works, and its potential impact on in-car Android

AAA came to its conclusions by using a range of instrumented test vehicles, heart rate monitors and other apparatus to measure reaction times, and it’s part of a wider report looking at the effect technology has on cognitive functions.

Image Credit: Flickr (alan)