Siri co-creator reacts on texting while driving study, calls media reports “misleading”

By on May 1, 2013 in Lifestyle, Software, Technology, United States Comments

Siri co-creator Adam Cheyer reacts on a texting while driving study, which was released by the Texas Transportation Institute (TTI) at Texas A&M University last week. Shortly after, some news reports implied the study as using voice-to-text apps like Siri or Vlingo while driving is no safer than manual texting.

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Woman, texting while driving
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As noted on the report at on Tuesday, April 23, 2013, the study was conducted based on the performance of 43 research participants while driving an actual vehicle on a closed course. Each driver performed four different tasks, and the results of their reactions were recorded and analyzed.

According to TTI, the drivers first navigated the course without using their cell phones. Then, they were asked to drive at the same course three more times. The first one is driving using iPhone‘s Siri. The second one is driving using Android‘s Vlingo, and the third one driving while texting manually.

Based on the result, TTI noted that the drivers’ response times were significantly delayed in all the texting while driving method they used. In each of the three experiments, drivers allegedly spent time around twice longer than the time driving without texting when reacting on the obstruction in the road.

In addition, the drivers reportedly spent shorter time looking at the road in each of the three texting method, as compared to the time when they were driving without texting. Nevertheless, the study showed that drivers are safer when using voice-to-text method, when compared to simply texting while driving.

“Understanding the distracted driving issue is an evolving process, and this study is but one step in that process. We believe it’s a useful step, and we’re eager to see what other studies may find.” Christine Yager, a TTI Associate Transportation Researcher who managed the study was quoted in the report.

On the other hand, Siri co-creator Adam Cheyer opposed the result of the study and criticized some media reports that he said were “misleading.” A report on this Tuesday, April 30, Cheyer, who resigned from Apple in 2012, questioned the way Siri was used in the TTI experiment.

“I don’t think that there is any evidence that shows that if Siri and other systems are used properly in eyes-free mode, they are ‘just as risky’ as texting. It assumes you are ‘eyes-busy’ and responds differently. Of course your driving performance is going to be degraded if you’re reading screens and pushing buttons.” Cheyer was quoted as saying.

“My goal is not to knock this particular study. I’m just dismayed that the message being communicated by news media—that ‘Siri is just as risky as texting’—is misleading.” Cheyer added, noting that Siri and Vlingo should have been tested in the car mode, where drivers should use a Bluetooth headset or speakers.

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