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  • Do Siri and Other Voice to Text Messaging Apps Promote Safer Driving?

    Posted on November 7th, 2011 Edward A. Brutscher No comments
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    Do Voice to Text Apps Promote Safer Driving?

    The recent release of Apple’s long awaited iPhone 4s brought with it an exciting new feature called Siri, a natural voice interface that uses artificial intelligence to interpret user commands and answer questions.  Ask Siri to text a contact and the commands are completed without any physical input by the user.  Elly over at Appchat has a short Youtube video demonstrating this Siri function, here.

    While Siri is only available on the new iPhone 4s, there are other 3rd party voice to text apps available for other phones in both iTunes and the Android App Store.  These apps allow a user to record a message and turn it into text.  The user can then choose whether to email or text the message or send it as an update to Twitter or Facebook.  Other 3rd party apps read text and emails aloud, allowing you to respond with voice commands.  While these apps do turn voice into text and can initiate simple commands, they typically require a much larger amount of user input to function.

    So, with this understanding can we say that functions like Siri and 3rd party iPhone and Android voice to text apps promote safer driving?

    It’s clear that the a decrease in user input reduces the amount of time a user is distracted by his mobile phone.  Voice to text apps that eliminate the need to type or read text are clearly a better alternative than actually typing or reading the text itself.  However, that does not mean that these apps eliminate distractions themselves.

    The US Dept. of Transportation maintains a website at distraction.gov that discusses the facts of distracted driving and the statistics on distraction’s role in car wrecks.   According to distraction.gov there are actually three main types of distractions:

    • Visual-taking your eyes off the road
    • Manual-taking your hands off the wheel,
    • Cognitive-taking your mind off what you’re doing

    According to distraction.gov among other statistics:

    • Texting is the most alarming distraction, because it involves all three types of distraction
    • 20% of injury crashes in 2009 involved reports of distracted driving
    • The under 20 age group had the greatest proportion of distracted drivers
    • Drivers who use a handheld device were four times likely to be involved in crashes serious enough to injure themselves.

    Anything that takes your eyes, hands or mind off the task of driving is considered a distraction.  The higher the level of distraction, like text messaging, the better the likelihood that the distraction will play a role in a serious injury causing crash.

    Any app or function that reduces or eliminates distractions  clearly promotes safer driving.  Among all the voice to text apps and functions, Siri would appear to hold the most promise.  However, while Siri and other 3rd party voice to text apps may reduce the amount of visual and manual distraction involved in sending a text message, they do not entirely eliminate all the distractions that can contribute to a car wreck.  The more a user is required to look at his device or physically input information into his device, the more visual, manual, and cognitive distraction that occurs.  The more distractions, the bigger the risk of an injury causing wreck.

    Remember the safest way to drive is to avoid all distractions, including using your cell phone, whether or not you use Siri or other third party apps.  Do not under any circumstances manually text message someone while driving since this act is the most distracting, most dangerous and likely illegal.

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