Voice Controls Reduce Road Distraction

Apr 16, 2010

A Virginia Tech Transportation Institute study, commissioned by Ford Motor Co., has found that drivers using voice controls for electronics took their eyes off the road far less than drivers who fiddled with music players and cell phones.

Shane McLaughlin, a researcher with the Center for Automotive Safety Research at VTTI, says that as he picks apart accident reconstructions, he’s left with one message: “Don’t ever look down.”

Say McLaughlin, “What we’re finding across our studies is that if we can keep the eyes on the road, that’s a big piece of the puzzle.”

The study looked at 22 users of Ford’s Microsoft-based Sync voice-activated controls in real-world driving situations. That’s important, says McLaughlin, because many such tests done in labs fail to pick up on how drivers behave in the real world.

The study found drivers looked away from the road 2.5 times more often when using hand- rather than voice-activated controls for a phone call. It was 10 times more often for operating a music player.

McLaughlin says the technology is developing so fast that all carmakers should be able to get some kind of voice-control system into their vehicles soon. He says the study shows that if they’re not working on it now, “they should.”

If distracted driving s a concern for your fleet (and it should be), consider looking into some of these new technologies.

Photo courtesy of daleexeenko under the Creative Commons License