People Should Stop Talking to Their Cars, Study Says

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Drivers had better think twice before dictating that text to Siri during early morning traffic.

A study published Thursday casts doubt on the safety of voice-activated technology in new cars — the kind that allows consumers to talk to their phones and cars while driving, rather than pushing buttons.

Voice commands are intended to be a safe alternative to texting or dialing while driving, but the study sponsored by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety (and the supplementary video) shows they’re actually really distracting.

The research concluded that voice-activated systems can distract drivers for 15 to 27 seconds even after they stop interacting with the system. That’s the amount of time necessary for drivers to reorient themselves to the road, said David Strayer, a neuroscientist at the University of Utah, in an interview with the Times. Using voice technology takes roughly the same amount of brainpower as “balancing a checkbook while driving,” he says.

In a comparison of ten different voice-activated systems, Strayer found the most distracting to be the Mazda 6 system, followed by Microsoft’s Cortana. Even Apple’s Siri system caused “high distraction.”

The self-driving car can’t come soon enough.