Flawed distracted driving study fails to evaluate Apple’s Siri Eyes Free

“A widely publicized study that reported that voice assistants like Apple’s Siri aren’t any safer than manually texting while driving failed to test Siri as it was actually designed to be used in its distracted driving experiment,” Daniel Eran Dilger reports for AppleInsider.

“The study, conducted by Texas A&M Transportation Institute, noted that drivers on a closed course holding a smartphone in one hand while interacting with Siri (or Vlingo, a similar service for Android smartphones) took nearly twice as long to respond to an external testing event,” Dilger reports. “The study’s author Christine Yager subsequently concluded that voice-to-text services ‘”do not increase driver safety compared to manual texting.'”

Dilger reports, “In response to the experiment, a report by Xconomy noted that the study was flawed because the way Siri was tested is not how it is intended to be used.”

Read more in the full article here.

Wade Roush reports for Xconomy, “Adam Cheyer, the computer scientist who co-invented Siri and sold it to Apple in 2010… [said], ‘I don’t think that there is any evidence that shows that if Siri and other systems are used properly in eyes-free mode, they are ‘just as risky as texting.'”

“The crucial phrase in Cheyer’s quote is ‘eyes-free mode,'” Roush reports. “When a driver is using Siri with a Bluetooth headset or speaker—as Apple recommends—the app goes into a special mode that limits interactions to voice only. ‘It assumes you are ‘eyes-busy’ and responds differently,’ says Cheyer, who left Apple in 2012.”

Roush reports, “‘My goal is not to knock this particular study,’ Cheyer says. ‘I’m just dismayed that the message being communicated by news media—that ‘Siri is just as risky as texting’—is misleading.’ … The TTI study shows only that ‘non-eyes-free voice input is not a significant win over non-eyes-free manual texting,’ he says. ‘This is the message that should be transmitted to people.'”

Read more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: The majority of the media blows it. So, who’s surprised?

Related articles:
Apple working with vehicle makers to deeply embed iOS 7 Maps and Siri services, sources say – April 30, 2013
Apple expands its automotive push, seeks to grow its iOS vehicle integration team – March 6, 2013
General Motors’ Chevrolet Sonic, Spark first to offer iPhone, iPad, iPod touch users Siri Eyes Free integration – February 14, 2013
Honda and Acura to deliver Apple’s Siri Eyes Free on select 2013 vehicles – January 30, 2013
Hyundai becomes 10th vehicle maker to integrate Apple’s Siri ‘Eyes Free’ tech – January 7, 2013
GM to integrate Apple’s ‘Eyes Free’ Siri technology starting with Chevy Sonic, Spark – June 19, 2012
Harman CEO on Apple for Automotive: ‘Apple is a partner, not an adversary’ – June 13, 2012
Nine auto makers partner with Apple for ‘Eyes Free’ Siri integration – June 12, 2012
Mercedes-Benz integrates Apple’s Siri personal assistant into its vehicles – February 28, 2012


  1. Certain people make up their minds that there are certain things they don’t like and those certain things become the be all end all for associated problems.

    Mobile phones are just one possible distraction in cars. Personally, from my experience, sexy posters are worse. I’ve almost run into the back of someone more than once because of giant Skyy Vodka ads.

    Children are huge distractions. The radio, and full blown entertainment centers in cars are distractions. The GPS systems are distractions.

    A pretty girl walking down the street is a distraction.

    I’ve been distracted watching how distracted other people are. Heh.

    DISTRACTIONS IN GENERAL are the problem with driving. Not just mobile phones and texting. Though texting is double stupid. It doesn’t come at you, you have choose to do it.

    People don’t text and drive, otherwise the nanny state is going to have laws that say your mobile phone must be in the trunk and turned off while driving. Mark my words. It’s in their nature.


  2. Or how about cigarettes? Especially when the lit tobacco on the end falls out and lands between your legs.

    Or how about eating a cheeseburger and drinking a Pepsi while driving? Or putting on makeup? How about shaving? Changing clothes? Having sex?

    1. A terrible accident occurred locally when a 17 year old boy had a lit cigarette end land in his lap and while he was trying to recover it, he drove over 5 cyclists at highway speed. Only one survived. 6 lives in all either ended or ruined. Very sad. But texting may be the silliest thing ever tried while driving. At least sex is fun.

      1. I like to eat cheeseburgers at 80 mph while having sex, and then the obligatory cigarette afterwards, so it’s a combination of serially and simultaneously.

  3. Saw this bumper sticker in Jackson Hole, Wyoming last month:

    “Guns don’t kill people;
    Drivers with cellphones do!”

    ha! I live in NJ. No fan of guns, but I do see an awful lot of cellphone use by car and truck drivers. Accidents waiting to happen…

  4. I was once offered a plate of free eyes, luckily l couldn’t catch my flight and therefor was unable to accept and tuck into my free eyes. ‘How Silly Eyes Free of me!’

  5. “My goal is not to knock this particular study”

    I will. The study is either intentionally misleading or written by really stupid people. You know, the one’s who get into accidents while holding cell phones with one hand.
    I use Siri with Apple ear pods (legally in one ear) to “call my wife” or “take me home”
    I don’t write text messages while holding the phone up with one hand.
    While we are at it, can we ban passengers? I’m tempted to talk to them while driving. And can we get rid in billboards? They are designed to take my eyes off the road for as long as possible.

    In short, can we just ban stupid people from the road?
    (and from writing studies like these?)

  6. In their defense, researches said that they tested phones exactly the way most people would use them. Apparently, very few people are aware of this “eyes-free” mode, both with Siri, as well as with Vlingo. The researches even took some time to look over Apple’s iPhone site and find information regarding “eyes-free”, but couldn’t find any specific instructions.

    In other words, “eyes-free” mode may very likely give a completely different result, but what good is it if nobody really uses it?

    The ultimate conclusion from this study is not that voice recognition doesn’t help much while texting and driving. It is that phone makers need to better educate people about this particular feature; it may save lives if people actually knew how to use it.

  7. It is interesting how everyone jumps into this defensive mode when there is a claim they don’t like. In this case, I think we can all agree that the reporting about the study was clearly misleading (“Siri doesn’t reduce distraction while texting and driving”).

    However, the question of whether Siri does or does not help with the distraction has absolutely NOTHING to do with other types of distractions while driving (or in life in general). Bringing up billboards, lit cigarettes, chatty passengers, children or sex into the discussion about the effect of Siri on texting while driving adds nothing to the discussion and is not really relevant at all. All those are valid subjects of ANOTHER discussion; they just have nothing to do with this particular one.

    1. Actually they are all relevant. The point people were making is that the study is pointless on multiple levels. It’s like doing a study and concluding that stealing candy is wrong. All theft is wrong, and while driving all distraction can be deadly. So focusing on mobile phones is redundant.

      1. I disagree. The study had a very specific purpose. I thought this was clear to everyone, but apparently not, so I’ll elaborate.

        Current statistics indicate that one in almost five road accidents are caused by drivers who texted. Apparently, texting while driving seems to be one of the most dangerous of all the distractions that drivers encounter. Some of those distractions are difficult to avoid by the driver (Skyy Vodka bilobards, noisy children, etc), others (like texting) can be avoided or mitigated.

        The study had a valid goal: in order to figure out if there is a way to reduce the dangers of texting while driving, which tend to cause fairly high number of accidents, the study wanted to find out how much less of a distraction to the driver a phone with voice command would be. When used in its default way, apparently it is not much less of a distraction.

        For the study, all other types of distractions were not relevant.

    2. Exactly. It’s not about Siri, at least not for me. Dicking around with technology while driving is distracting? Duh, ya think? You needed a study for that? It doesn’t matter if it’s Siri. I’ve used Siri turn by turn from the passenger seat of a car and had the driver completely distracted by how well it worked, but after she got used to it, it was no more distracting than if I had given the directions.

      There a countless distractions while driving. The focus of all this effort should be to deal with people who don’t understand distraction and driving because focusing on phones is pointless.

      I know, let’s ban kids from cars.

    3. Thankfully this is a forum where we still have free speech functions.

      The biggest distraction of late has been the GPS verbal instructions to get from point A to Point B with the constant visual map updates either on the dash or suction-cupped to the windshield. Definitely not “eyes-free”! I found it beneficial to either mute the darned things or turn them off completely, however the companies that provided the devices wanted to track us (realtime tracking) and didn’t like us turning the units off.

      1. I’m not sure I understand your problem. The way your message sounds, it seems that you are complaining that your GPS turn-by-turn directions are giving you directions (both verbally and visually, and that both are distracting).

        I’m not quite sure how do you propose a GPS turn-by-turn directions device would work, if it can’t give you voice directions, nor can it give you visual map updates.

        For me, turn-by-turn directions by voice seem the least distracting of all possible options for navigation (moving map with visual directions, static map with visual directions, physical map, a passenger who reads a moving, or static map, or GPS device directions, or any other kind).

  8. Come on folks. Drivers no longer obey any traffic laws. Speeding, runnung red lights, no signalling. Wife and I took a coast to coast driving trip last month. In every state we saw that many folks were on the phone, eating, smoking, reading..yes reading. Anything but paying attention. In the south many were not even belted. Ratty old cars doing 80+. We came home and decided we need a bigger car. Pedestrians are distracted as well, waking along texting away. Sooner or later we are going to be in an accident with one of these clowns.

  9. In civilised countries like Australia, it is illegal to drive and use a mobile phone. We also have gun control, no death penalty and atheist woman prime minister.

  10. This is not an attack at Apple or Siri…
    It’s not what you do while driving, it’s that you do something at all. Changing channel on te radio, talking to a passenger, SMSing or what have you. That’s the distracting part. Talking to Siri would also be distracting. More distracting for some people, less for others but still it’s dangerous. We all know it.

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