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AAA Study Finds Siri — And Potentially Any Smartphone Assistant — Hugely Distracting To Driving
Siri's inconsistency in understanding & completing tasks, as well as occasional sarcasm and jokes, caused problems for drivers
Bad news for the folks who think using Siri can make you more productive while driving. A new study by the AAA automobile group has found Siri to be incredibly distracting while behind the wheel.
The AAA worked with Apple to develop a completely hands-free version of Siri. It responded to voice commands without requiring any handling of the iPhone or the participants ever looking the phone’s screen. They were asked to do three tasks:
- Send and listen to text messages
- Make Facebook and Twitter posts
- Review and modify calendar appointments
Siri Lead To Two Simulated Crashes
Compared to other tasks — such as using a simulated GPS system to locate things like gas stations or grocery stores entirely by voice — Siri was found the most distracting. On a one-to-five scale, with five being most distracting, Siri scored a four. In addition, of the three crashes recorded in simulators, two were caused by Siri.
What went wrong? The study ruled out issues such as quality of voice or being distracted by actually handling the phone or looking at the screen. Instead, it seems that Siri doesn’t get things correct enough for someone who is also operating a vehicle.
Save The Sarcasm When I’m Driving, Siri
The study found that Siri often failed to properly understand what someone wanted, which could lead to them having to completely start a task over. In addition, Siri’s attempts to be funny turned out to be frustrating and distracting. From the detailed report (PDF):
Common issues involved inconsistencies in which Siri would produce different responses to seemingly identical commands. 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.
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.
Google Now & Cortana Potentially As Bad
The study also noted that the same issues might be a problem for Google Now and Microsoft Cortana, both of which are smartphone assistants similar to Siri. Neither was tested, but the AAA estimated they’d at least rate a three on the distraction scale.