Eyes on the Dough

The auto and “tech” capitalists are peddling the idea that putting voice command electronics in cars is all about safety, because it allows drivers to keep their eyes on the road. It is, of course, horseshit.

According to Automotive News, the research turns up the usual reality:

Car companies have turned to voice controls to cut down on distracted driving. But systems such as Apple Inc.’s Siri electronic assistant, which automakers started installing in vehicles in 2013, may be as mentally taxing as the buttons and knobs they replace, research released today by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety suggests.

The companies have turned to things like this not for safety, but because they are highly profitable add-ons. Anyhow:

For the AAA-commissioned experiments, conducted by researchers at the University of Utah, test subjects in a driving simulator used Siri to send text messages, post updates on Facebook and modify their calendar appointments. The test subjects averaged 4 points on a 5-point scale used to gauge mental strain while using Siri — a heavier workload than experienced when talking on a handheld cell phone or changing the radio. Three virtual crashes took place in the driving simulator during the experiments. Two of them occurred while using Siri.

David Strayer, the University of Utah psychology professor who led the research, recalled watching footage of one of the crashes, in which the test subject rear-ended an abruptly stopping car. He described it as a textbook case of “inattentional blindness” — the driver’s eyes “were looking out the windshield, her hands were on the steering wheel, but she was taken aback completely by that vehicle,” he said. “The push to voice-based technology acknowledges that people need to keep their eyes on the road,” Strayer said in an interview. “Our research suggests that’s not enough. You need to be paying attention to what you’re looking at.”

Undoubtedly aware of all this from the get-go, the car capitalists have their excuses ready to roll, though it’s all but certain that nothing serious will ever be done by the purchased political system:

“This study focused on a very narrow aspect of distraction: cognitive load,” Wade Newton, the spokesman, wrote in an e-mail. “Because the study did not address either visual or manual distractions, the results tell us very little about the relative benefits of in-vehicle versus handheld systems or about the relationship between cognitive load and crash risks in the real world.”

Annalisa Bluhm, a Chevrolet spokeswoman, said that the University of Utah research used Cruze and Impala sedans from model year 2013 that were equipped with older, less sophisticated voice recognition systems. She said GM still believes hands-free controls are safer than using a cellphone behind the wheel, and that it is working hard to improve those systems.

Improve, not remove, of course.

Hands-Free Murder

skullcar Turns out writing letters while operating an automobile is an especially terrible idea. The New York Times today reports:

The research was led by David Strayer, a neuroscientist at the University of Utah who for two decades has applied the principles of attention science to driver behavior. His research has showed, for example, that talking on a phone while driving creates the same level of crash risk as someone with a 0.08 blood-alcohol level, the legal level for intoxication across the country.

In this latest study, he and a team of researchers compared the impact on drivers of different activities, including listening to a book on tape or the radio, and talking on a hand-held phone or hands-free phone.

The researchers compared how the subjects performed when they were not driving with two other conditions: when using a driver simulator and in a car equipped with tools aimed at measuring how well they drove. The researchers used eye-scanning technology to see where driver attention was focused and also measured the electrical activity in the brain.

Mr. Strayer said the results were consistent across all the tests in finding that speech-to-text technology caused a higher level of cognitive distraction than any of the other activities. The research showed, for instance, that the person interacting with speech to text was less likely than in other activities to scan a crosswalk for pedestrians. And that driver showed lowered activity in networks of the brain associated with driving, indicating that those networks were impaired by the interaction with the technology.

In a string of claims straight out of the old tobacco corporation playbook, the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers lies about being “concerned,” obfuscates the issue, and, of course, finally excuses its members:

“We are concerned about any study that suggests that hand-held phones are comparably risky to the hands-free systems we are putting in our vehicles,” said Gloria Bergquist, the vice president for public affairs at the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers in Washington, adding that carmakers are trying to keep consumers connected without them having to use their hand-held phones while driving.

“It is a connected society, and people want to be connected in their car just as they are in their home or wherever they may be,” she said.

What the AAM spokeswhore doesn’t mention is that built-in hands-free devices are just so many more parts to a car, each of which is a profit center. The overclass, you see, wants to sell these parts. And it will.

It’s mass murder for money, plain and simple. The corporate veil makes it all normal and natural.

The automakers aren’t likely to slow down development of the technology unless the law forbids it [cue sound of cats laughing], said Ronald Montoya, consumer advice editor for Edmunds.com, a research firm.

“They’re not going to pause based on this research,” he said.