Voice command technology like Apple’s Siri, Microsoft’s Cortana, and Google Now are supposed to aid drivers in completing tasks so they don’t break their focus from the road.
But two University of Utah studies found that it can take as many as 27 seconds to regain focus after using voice command technology.
That doesn’t sound like much, but a lot can happen in 27 seconds when you’re driving.
The researchers asked participants to drive different cars at 25 miles per hour or less around a 2.7-mile track in Salt Lake City. While driving, the participants were asked to use voice commands to make calls, dial the phone, change the radio, and text.
The voice command technology was rated on a 1-5 scale where 5 represented the highest level of distraction.
Among the popular virtual assistants available today, Microsoft’s Cortana performed the worst when pitted against Apple’s Siri and Google Now. Cortana and Siri received 3.8 and 3.4 scores out of 5, respectively.
“Our customer’s safety while using our products is of the utmost importance,” a Microsoft spokesperson said. “We are evaluating the findings of the report and are constantly working to improve Cortana’s ability to be the best digital assistant in a safe and productive way.”
Apple didn’t return a request for comment.
Google Now performed the best of the three assistants with a ranking of 3.0, but a Google spokesperson noted that Google Now is not necessarily the best voice command option while driving.
“The Google app helps people get things done on their phone faster by just speaking to Google — but is not specifically designed for driving,” a Google spokesperson said. “Android Auto has been designed from the ground up to help reduce distraction while driving.”
For reference, older studies found making calls to be less distracting than using voice command technology. Handheld calls had received a score of 2.5, and handsfree calls got a 2.3. Listening to the radio and books on tape got a 1.2 and 1.7, respectively.
Drivers’ distraction levels did not decrease even when given time to practice using voice commands.
“The voice-command technology isn’t ready,” Joel Cooper, a University of Utah research assistant professor and a co-author of the new studies, wrote in the studies’ press statement
. “It’s in the cars and is billed as a safe alternative to manual interactions with your car, but the voice systems simply don’t work well enough.”
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