Hands-free tech doesn't help with driver distraction says researchers

As mobile technology increases, so does the trouble it causes on the road when drivers engage with the devices. The powers that be have been pushing auto makers to implement systems that prevent or limit the use of devices in their car, with the NHTSA being particularly vocal about it on June 7. While hands-free systems and technology allow drivers to keep their eyes on the road, it doesn't prevent distraction, says researchers.

The information comes from a two-year study conducted by researchers at the University of Utah, which revealed that present efforts to reduce road distraction using hands-free technology is not as effective as hoped. The issue is that while one's eyes might be focused on the road, their mind is still being preoccupied with a task other than driving.

Not only that, but one hands-free system was shown to be more distracting than the other in-car distractions that were tested: speech-to-text. Anyone who has ever used the technology won't find this surprising, as it has a habit of producing funny translations of what you said, prompting proofreading and corrections.

How were these conclusions formed? By using a black cap full of electrodes, which the test subjects wore while driving. The participants' brainwaves were monitored while different distractions were presented, and the changes it produced in their brainwaves was looked at to determine the effects different distractions have. Testing was done both in on-road tests and in driving simulations.

One such problem that was discovered was something referred to inattention blindness, which means the driver sees, for example, someone step in front of their car, but takes longer to react because their mind is preoccupied with other activities, meaning the new phenomenon takes longer to register. This means the driver can have his hands on the wheel and his eyes on the road, but still be distracted by his tech.

SOURCE: Washington Post