• May 28th, 2020

Distracted driving related to cell phone usage ranks among the top three causes of fatal crashes on the road. Although forty-eight of 50 U.S. states allow the use of personal devices if operated hands-free and secured in the vehicle, scientific studies have yet to quantify the safety improvement presumed to be introduced by voice-to-text interactions. Thus, this study investigated how different modes of interaction of drivers with a smartphone (i.e., manual texting vs. vocal input) affect drivers’ distraction and performance in both conventional and semi-autonomous vehicles. The study was executed in a full-car integrated simulator and tested a population of 32 drivers. The study considered two scenarios: (1) conventional manual driving in a suburban environment with intersection stops; and (2) control takeover from an engaged autonomous vehicle that reverted to manual driving at a highway exit. The quality of execution of maneuvers as well as timing and tracking of eye-gaze focus areas were assessed in both scenarios. Results demonstrated that while participants perceived an increased level of safety while using the hands-free interface, response times and drift did not significantly differ from those manually texting. Furthermore, even though participants perceived a greater effort in accomplishing the text reply through the manual interface, none of the measured quantities for driving performance or eye-gaze focus revealed statistical difference between the two interfaces, ultimately calling into question the assumption of greater safety implicit in the laws allowing hands-free devices.

Read the full study here.

Study performed by the Mineta Transportation Institute and sponsored by the U.S. Department of Transportation Office of the Assistant Secretary for Research and Technology.