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Beware: Car safety advances that actually put you in more danger

Beware: Car safety advances that actually put you in more danger
photo courtesy of shutterstock

When you're on the road, all it takes is a split second to change your life. Just a moment too long staring at your phone, or your radio, or glancing at your kids in the backseat can cause a tragedy.

That's why there are so many "hands-free" gadgets on the market these days. Every little bit helps when it comes to cutting distraction out of your driving routine.

But some of those hands-free gadgets are hurting you more than they're helping.

Specifically, voice-activated gadgets. That's right, your friendly smartphone assistant could be costing you precious attention while you're at the wheel, increasing your risk of a horrible collision.

Lucky for you, I've got the latest scoop on hands-free driving gadgets, and the best ones to use to keep yourself and your loved ones safe.

Some commonly used voice-activated assistants, namely Siri, are actually more dangerous for you when you're at the wheel. In a recent study, two participants actually rear-ended other vehicles while using Siri.

In one study released this week, participants drove a six- to nine-minute loop through a rural neighborhood in six different cars to test hands-free devices and voice-activated technology in the cars themselves. Testers were also allowed to familiarize themselves with the driving course and the voice-activated technology before starting the test.

The cars and voice-activated technology tested were: Ford - using MyFordTouch, Chevrolet - using MyLink, Chrysler - using Uconnect, Toyota - using Entune, Mercedes - using COMAND, and Hyundai - using Blue Link.

While the study participants were driving, they were told to complete a few routine tasks like "dial a 10-digit number, call a contact, change the radio station, or play a CD ... All interactions took place using 'hands-free' voice systems which were activated with the touch of a button on the steering wheel."

Then the testers gave a score to each hands-free gadget, with one being the least distracting and five being the most distracting. Surprisingly, Chevy's MyLink was scored the worse out of all the tests - 3.7 - but was still significantly lower than Siri, which got a rating of 4.14.

It's important to note that Siri was tested without CarPlay or Siri Eyes Free, which were specifically designed for driving. But how did the rest of the cars and their hands-free tech stack up?

"The systems on Chrysler, Ford, and Mercedes vehicles were all rated as being more distracting to use than talking on a handheld phone. Using Hyundai's system was on-par with holding a conversation on the phone or with a passenger, and Toyota's Entune was rated as being only as distracting as listening to the radio."

The safety of the driver also depends on how fast the voice-activated system responds, and how error-prone the technology is. The less time required to interact with the hands-free gadget made it easier to use and less distracting.

"'For the tasks selected in this analysis, Toyota’s Entune system required the least amount of interaction time while Chevrolet’s MyLink required the most.' Specifically, on Toyota's Entune system, call-based tasks were completed in 20 seconds, and music selection-based tasks were completed in 22 seconds. Call-based tasks were completed on Chevrolet's MyLink system in 29 seconds, and music-based tasks were completed in 43 seconds."

The short of it is that the less amount of time you spend on fiddling with gadgets in your car, the safer you'll be. Thankfully, these hands-free gadgets are far safer than texting and driving, which you should never be doing while at the wheel.

Looking for gadgets to keep you less distracted at the wheel? Check out a must-have Bluetooth hands-free gadget for your car, or this awesome Bluetooth audio streaming kit for your car. Click here to check out even more goodies for your vehicle. 

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Source: Ars Technica
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