AAA study: Brain can’t text while driving even with hands free; Apple’s Siri Eyes Free not evaluated

“Using voice-to-text messaging, included in systems such as Ford Motor Co.’s Sync and Toyota Motor Corp.’s Entune, is more distracting to drivers than making calls with handheld mobile phones, a study by AAA found,” Angela Greiling Keane reports for Bloomberg News.

“Texting a friend verbally while behind the wheel caused a ‘large’ amount of mental distraction compared with ‘moderate/significant’ for holding a phone conversation or talking with a passenger and ‘small’ when listening to music or an audio book, the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety found in a report released today,” Keane reports. “Automakers have promoted voice-based messaging as a safer alternative to taking hands off the wheel to place a call and talk on a handheld phone. About 9 million infotainment systems will be shipped this year in cars sold worldwide, with that number projected to rise to more than 62 million by 2018, according to a March report by London-based ABI Research.”

Keane reports, “The study used drivers, mostly in their 20s and 30s, to do things including listening to a radio and talking on a handheld phone. Participants, all of whom had good driving records, did the tasks first in a lab, then in a driving simulator and finally in a residential area while driving. Researchers measured reaction time and brainwave activity with caps secured to drivers’ heads to see what was the most distracting.”

Read more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: They need to test Siri Eyes Free, properly implemented, since that is the system a large number of drivers will be using. They also need to test drivers who’ve used the system for more than 15 minutes. Until then: Pfft. And, of course, Ford’s Sync, developed by Microsoft, is going to suck at hands free communication – it sucks at everything!

Related articles:
Ford plummets to 27th in J.D. Power vehicle quality rankings on Microsoft-developed ‘MyFord Touch’ woes – June 20, 2012
Microsoft’s confusing, buggy Sync sinks Ford’s J.D. Power quality ratings – June 23, 2011

Flawed distracted driving study fails to evaluate Apple’s Siri Eyes Free – May 1, 2013
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. Make that ‘brain can’t verbally text while driving around cones with cameras watching and wires stuck all over your head’ to have a better idea of how the study was conducted (and most likely got the results they were aiming for).

    1. If we cannot talk to Siri while driving……. How in the H*ll can we be allowed to talk to another person in the car???????

      Sorry but lately, we are getting very weird people making weird statements about weird tests they have preformed…

      Just……. weird…… LOL

    1. Yeah, and while your at it, don’t drink, eat, put on makeup, touch your radio, or even talk to any passengers or screaming rug rats in the back. Face it, some people have the ability to drive distracted, some don’t. Lumping everyone together is stupid.

      1. Some things require more attention than others. Texting and putting on makeup are about the same. But thinking that you’re one of the special ones who can text and drive is no different than everyone who claims they drive well (or better) when drunk. Sorry, but the science doesn’t back you up. And I’m not talking about the AAA study. Many other studies have been done regarding distraction.

      2. So, tron, you’re special, just like everybody else?

        Like it or not the roadways _DO_ group everyone together, and thus everyone needs to follow consistent rules.

        Banning cell phone use altogether in automobiles would be a reasonable step in the right direction, because there is no study of any kind that shows ANYONE is alert and responsive behind the wheel when using electronic gadgets.

        All the other factors you listed don’t change this reality. The law cannot reasonably control rugrats. But it can fundamentally improve safety in other ways, #1 being alcohol/drug control and #2 being cell phones. But yes, automakers should be banned from adding increasing other distractions to their bloated cars. There isn’t a digital screen in a car that doesn’t hinder driver safety as the driver tunnels through menu after menu in a vain attempt to find whatever control he needs.

        All digital devices should go blank as soon as the vehicle is in motion.

    2. Cool, but remember that siri is NOT texting, its talking…

      Did you intend that we not talk in the car? Perhaps we need to not allow passengers???? HEY, Motorcycles for all!!!!

      Way to go. Make mine a Harley. LOL

  2. I use Siri right now to text and email when I am in the car. Works pretty darn well, using a Jawbone bluetooth. I only do it for urgent stuff, so quite rarely. I prefer to focus on driving… especially around the NY metro area.

  3. As a proud Ford Fusion owner, I can tell you that Microsoft’s Sync is yet epitome of unintuitive oral interface, requiring the user to be distracted back to the viewing screen. It truly is crap!

  4. I don’t understand why people feel the need to text while driving. How many URGENT messages have you ever gotten in your life that required an immediate answer? If its urgent make a call. People are so plugged in that they just jump at the first sign of a communication.

    I don’t answer the phone when I’m busy with other things. Like sleeping. Or working. Or spending time with my girlfriend. If there’s an emergency they’ll either leave a message or keep calling back until you answer. Funny hoe the message always gets through.

  5. i text and drive all the time… yeah its illegal

    but its not impossible.
    however, i text each letter extremely slowly during driving
    and eyes are focused on the road 98% of the time

    voice dictation like siri would best be the solution here

  6. I get that texting while driving is dangerous. What I don’t get is all the obsession with it. EVERY distraction while driving is dangerous. Signs and advertisements, hands free talking on the phone, animals in the car, children in the car, conversations with other passengers, the radio, eating, smoking, drinking, the GPS, dashboard computers telling you how much mileage you’re getting, and my all time favorite, reading a paper map while driving which the idiot cab driver that ran into the back of my BMW was doing.

    It’s not texting, it’s texting and every other freaking distraction.

    1. “Failure to maintain control of a vehicle” use to cover these things should an accident occur.

      But then again, people used to be taught to take responsibility for their actions and understood the ramifications.

      Now it’s just someone else’s fault, no matter what…..

      1. Exactly. Our society continuously tries to find something to blame rather than pointing to individuals who are responsible. Individual responsibility seems to be a foreign concept now. People get attacked by dogs, it’s not the abusive owner who weaponized the dog, it must be the breed. When people are killed by guns, it’s not the insane assholes pulling the trigger, it’s the gun. People buy houses they cannot afford, it’s the fault of the bank for making the loan and they are innocent victims. Now mobile phones provide just one more distraction while driving, and it’s the phones that are the problem, not the irresponsible drivers.

        We are adults and we should be held individually accountable for our actions.

        If you text and drive and get caught or cause an accident, you are demonstrating a level of social and personal irresponsibility that should warrant the revocation of your driving authorization for at least a year mandatory.

        Then if some wants to do an interesting and worthwhile study, gather all the data you can about these individuals and figure out why they believe they don’t have to obey the laws the rest of us do. Draw correlations among them. What do they have in common?

        1. You and Tower Tone both miss the point. While I fully agree individuals should be held accountable for their actions, this is about road safety and avoiding accidents. It’s not about jailing a person for killing a mother and child when texting and driving, it’s about avoiding that tragedy in the first place. Education to avoid the accident is better for all concerned than having two dead people and one locked up for 10 years.

          1. Sorry, joe, but I think you missed my point.
            I’ve averaged driving around 50k miles a year for the last 15 years. I see a LOT of stupid things and you cannot make a law for each of these acts.

            The mental activity to talk to Siri is no more disruptive than talking on the phone or to a passenger (especially a child).

            To me, when you make laws concerning specific acts as voice texting, seat belts, drinking/drugs, you kind of instill the idea that other things are safe to do. They aren’t.

            When I am on a stretch of road with no one around, I have no problem with texting. Same if I am in heavy traffic. But speeding though town? No. I know what is more likely to cause a wreck and avoid that stuff. Same with calling people or listening to loud music or using programming the GPS.

            No, I am not advocating drinking while texting with Freebird blasting and the kids crawling all over the car. But teach people to use some common sense.

            1. Wow, TT. I think we nearly agree on something!! 😉
              I agree that talking on the phone uses very little more brain power than talking to someone in the car. But I think texting uses significantly more brain power – even using Siri or other dictation system.
              You are right we can’t make laws for all the stupid things people do. But not everyone is as experienced a driver as you. The mother and child killed near me last year were victims of a 20 year old girl who was texting while driving. People flout laws, and always will. As you say, we have to teach people to use common sense. Publicizing the dangers of texting and driving is one way of doing just that.

    1. I occasionally send a short text while driving.  What I don’t do is lie to myself and others about it, and pretend that it’s safe.  The NPR report is right: The human mind doesn’t multi-task, it switches back and forth between tasks.

      Test yourself: Turn on ESPN. Listen to the talking heads and pay attention to what they’re saying … and simultaneously read the scores going across the bottom of the screen. Do that for 15 seconds, then repeat the scores AND summarize the conversation that you overheard.

  7. What a joke, when texting first came around and drivers were crashing left and right, hell they didn’ dare take a stand back then and anyone with a brain knew it was a problem. Did they say or do anything, hell no. Traffic safety my ass, an office made of 3 or 4 people hired to cover themselves at tax time so they could claim to be not for profit. What a farce to beleive anything they say or do.

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