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Distracted Driving: Voice-activated technology more risky than cellphones, study says

A car with four different GPS devices.
A car with four different GPS devices.

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The most desirable upgrade packages for new cars may be the most dangerous, according to auto safety experts. Voice-command programs in cars allow you to make calls, listen and respond to texts and emails, ask for directions and more. It was thought to be safer than using your hands to fumble through menus and buttons. However, safety experts for the American Automobile Association compared listening to the radio, talking on the phone and using voice-command technology. They found stunning results.

On a scale out of five, music or phone calls were rated a category "1" and "2" - minimal risk and moderate risk, respectively. Voice-activated technology used so much of your mental workload, researchers ranked it at a "3" - extensively risky. This is in sharp contrast to recent legislation passed in California.

Last year, AB 1536 (Miller) specifically okayed “hands-free, voice-operated texting while driving.” This year, a bill seeking to repeal 1536 died in committee (AB 313 - Frazier). Advances in the technology could nullify studies and legislation. WIRED transportation editor, Damon Lavrinc, expects voice-command in cars to improve significantly in the coming years.

What's your experience using voice-command technology?

Justin McNaull, Director of State Relations, American Automobile Association

Damon Lavrinc, Transportation Editor, WIRED magazine