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Siri's Creator Challenges Texting-While-Driving Study 262

Posted by Soulskill
from the skin-in-the-game dept.
waderoush writes "A rash of media reports last week, reporting on a study released by the Texas A&M Transportation Institute, implied that using voice-to-text apps like Siri or Vlingo while driving is no safer than manual texting. But Adam Cheyer, the co-inventor of Siri, says journalists took the wrong message from the study, which didn't test Siri or Vlingo in the recommended hands-free, eyes-free mode. In the study, researchers asked subjects to drive a closed course while they held an iPhone or Android phone in one hand, spoke messages into Siri or Vlingo, proofread the messages visually, and pressed buttons to send the messages. Under these conditions, driver response times were delayed by nearly a factor of two, the researchers found. 'Of course your driving performance is going to be degraded if you're reading screens and pushing buttons,' says Cheyer, who joined Apple in 2010 as part of the Siri acquisition and left the company two years later. To study whether voice-to-text apps are really safer than manual texting, he says, the Texas researchers should have tested Siri and Vlingo in car mode, where a Bluetooth headset or speakers are used to minimize visual and manual interaction. 'The study seems to have misunderstood how Siri was designed to be used,' Cheyer says. '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.''"
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Siri's Creator Challenges Texting-While-Driving Study

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  • Really all you need to know.
  • by bloodhawk (813939) on Tuesday April 30, 2013 @06:21PM (#43595687)
    I thought it has been long established through research that even a hands free cradle talking on the phone is a dangerous distraction while driving, Can't see how this can be less of a distraction than that even if it is better than manual texting. People have enough accidents without additional distractions.
    • by prelelat (201821) on Tuesday April 30, 2013 @06:35PM (#43595823)

      Yes and talking to someone in the car is distracting too. So is having kids kicking you in the back of the seat, changing radio stations. Billboards with flashy lights are distracting or they wouldn't have them. Oh I'm sure I'm missing a few more things.

      My point is, is that there are a ton of distracting things going on around us as we barrel down the road. The question is, is one more safe than the other. It would be logical that if you can speak to the device instead of type it would be safer. Having your head down and hand off the wheel or if your driving a standard no hand on the wheel or some form of wtf. Having these studies are important for trying to understand how safe something is so we can judge if it's within an acceptable margin. I think texting manually falls into being unsafe and I don't want to share the road with people that are doing it.

      It would appear speaking into Siri or other applications that do speech to text hasn't been studied enough to make a final decision, but I think it's going to end up OK. This study is a piece of garbage though and falls into bad research, as the software wasn't used as intended in the car.

      • by icebike (68054) on Tuesday April 30, 2013 @06:50PM (#43595937)

        Yes and talking to someone in the car is distracting too.

        Actually, its not that distracting.

        Other people in the car are aware of traffic conditions, they actually stop talking, they even point out dangerous situations (even fi from the back seat). Talking to a person in the passenger seat may actually be beneficial to driver safety.

        Having a conversation on the phone, that requires concentration, can certainly be distracting, but even the simplest text message is far more distracting. All of the tests of this kind of stuff were done asking people to solve simple math problems or word games on the phone while driving over a challenging course in an unfamiliar vehicle.

        Yaking on the bluetooth about nothing in particular while stuck in stop and go traffic simply isn't that dangerous as long as its hands free. The studies suggesting talking on the phone (hands free) is dangerous simply isn't born out by accident statistics. Texting while driving is born out by accident statistics.

        • by blackraven14250 (902843) on Tuesday April 30, 2013 @07:03PM (#43596067)
          It depends on the person talking too. 2 kids, or 2 individuals that have never driven, are likely to not be paying the kind of attention needed to give that feedback, while 2 experienced drivers will.
          • by aevan (903814)
            Don't forget the backseat driver: "You're too close! Slow down! Why are you only doing 30? You realise this lane ends right?".
            That's a whole different sort of 'feedback' than wanted.
        • by AaronW (33736) on Tuesday April 30, 2013 @09:24PM (#43596915) Homepage

          Additionally it has been shown that the phone is especially bad since it's a lot harder for your brain to process, especially over a cell phone due to the sound degradation due to all of the audio compression. I don't recall exactly where I heard this, likely on NPR Science Friday or one of the science magazines I subscribe to, but it makes sense. The brain has to do a lot more work to comprehend poor-quality speech than face-to-face speech, and the brain doesn't multitask all that well so it causes a much bigger distraction to driving.

      • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday April 30, 2013 @06:52PM (#43595957)

        It would appear speaking into Siri or other applications that do speech to text hasn't been studied enough to make a final decision, but I think it's going to end up OK. This study is a piece of garbage though and falls into bad research, as the software wasn't used as intended in the car.

        The only valid study would evaluate the software being used as it is typically used, regardless of the manufacturers intent.

        • by rs1n (1867908)

          It would appear speaking into Siri or other applications that do speech to text hasn't been studied enough to make a final decision, but I think it's going to end up OK. This study is a piece of garbage though and falls into bad research, as the software wasn't used as intended in the car.

          The only valid study would evaluate the software being used as it is typically used, regardless of the manufacturers intent.

          Well said.

        • by fnj (64210) on Tuesday April 30, 2013 @11:10PM (#43597487)

          The only valid study would evaluate the software being used as it is typically used, regardless of the manufacturers intent.

          No, that is complete bullshit. The only test whose results are of any interest at all would be a test which evaluates using the function PROPERLY, not in any onviouslly highly dangerous wrong manner. You could test the safety of some bird brain trying to drive his cars with his knees while woking on a rubik's cube, too, but that would be STUPID.

          Texting while driving by typing manually and/or using a screen to verify results is obviously INHERENTLY highly dangerous. On the other hand, using voice exclusively to do the job is no different than talking to somebody inside the car or hands-free talking to a voice on a phone.

          Now, the matter of getting some nut behind the wheel to use the proper and safe function in a proper and safe manner is another matter altogether. You could try to remove all driving distractions one by one, by taking out the builtin radio, outlawing the use of any radios or navigation devices or phones by the driver, putting soundproof walls between the driver and all occupants, trying to find some scientific method to suppress sexual thoughts when the driver sees someone attractive outside, or someone in the passenger seat is adjusting their bra, etc, etc - endlessly. I personally favor education instead. I know showing people how to live safely and relying on them to take safety seriously doesn't appeal to all mindsets.

          I LIKE your subject line. I wish your message reflected it.

          • by zyzko (6739)

            It is not complete bullshit. If the software allows you to hand-correct the texts you dictate and vast majority of people do so while driving - that is then how the software is used. In software projects (at least in good ones) there is a testing period where the actual use is monitored, and people can be very creative in using the software in ways the designer did not mean to.

            The only question is - what to do about it. In case of an business software used inefficiently the answer is often quite easy - mak

          • Sorry but if the point of the study is to find out whether using Siri is dangerous, then the test should reflect typical usage. No one's interested in a study that shows whether or not Siri was designed to be dangerous, only whether it is. Your example is stupid because virtually no one drives a car with their knees, if many drove in this manner it would be a perfectly valid thing to test.
            • by gd2shoe (747932)

              You've never seen someone drive with their knees? I think it's very bad behavior, but it happens all... the... time.

              No, seriously. I'd guess more than half of under-thirty-year-olds have used their knees to drive at one point or another, with no hands free to take the wheel.

          • by KGIII (973947)

            while woking on a rubik's cube

            You have a stove in your car??? Also, don't cook plastic. Even cooked it isn't meant to be eaten usually.

            Wok this way, talk this way...

        • by SkimTony (245337)

          When using a study such as this, it's important to state the constraints of the study when explaining your conclusion. The headlines don't read "most commonly used mode of Siri/Vlingo not better than texting while driving." They read "Using Siri/Vlingo no better than texting while driving." If they didn't test the version of Siri designed to be used while driving, then this is an inappropriate conclusion; they didn't test Siri, they only tested a particular configuration (just like secure computing certific

          • by gd2shoe (747932)

            I think this was a politically driven study. They weren't after a better texting solution... they just wanted to ban phones in cars. At this rate (in CA) it will be illegal to possess a phone battery or charger in a moving vehicle. They just hate phones in cars. They're convinced that phones are killing millions of people every year, and don't you dare tell them that haven't a clue how statistics work. (Any batch of numbers, inappropriately crunched, will produce "statistics"... just not useful ones.

            An

      • by JustOK (667959)

        It's only logical if the facts support it.

      • by rolfwind (528248)

        Humans are inherently unsafe behind the wheel and I look forward to computers either aiding us or taking full control soon.

      • by bloodhawk (813939)
        I think from memory (though happy to be corrected) is that the difference was found that people in the car interacting are at least aware of the current situation whereas someone on the phone has no awareness whatsoever of the conditions you are speaking in and may distract you at the worst possible moment whereas at least someone in a car has some vague awareness of the dangers, Radio is passive and yeah kids are probably also a huge distraction but that doesn't mean you should just automatically say fuck
      • by rtb61 (674572)

        Some countries require that all street side signage be submitted for approval and if too large or distracting they are banned. Your point is, if you have a 'FEW' distracting things going on what is the problem with adding even more, I think you have pointed out the flaw in your thinking, your are adding more distraction, which further degrades driving attention. As for those tests, they are specifically tests, not day to day distracted driving and lack all of your existing distractions to show the additio

      • This study is a piece of garbage though and falls into bad research, as the software wasn't used as intended in the car.

        Before one can say the study is garbage, one has to ask if people really do use Siri (or vlingo) as those applications were designed to be used while driving. Personally, I can not say either way, I couldn't even use Siri (or vlingo, google voice search) while driving even if I wanted to. No application is capable of understanding my accent under any circumstance, let alone while driving.

        Whatever happens, please do not force Siri to be used only when the car is stopped. I have a friend who's Prius built-in

        • by prelelat (201821)

          I guess I may be a little biased because while I haven't used siri I have used my Motorola roadster to write up text responses, and answer the phone while driving. I can also make a call with one press of a button but usually don't(even though it's legal where I am to do so). I find it thousands of times more safe to do than text by hand, which I will have to admit I did years ago when I first got my blackberry(I'm quite ashamed to admit now).

          Also your friend frightens me.

      • by AK Marc (707885)

        It would appear speaking into Siri or other applications that do speech to text hasn't been studied enough to make a final decision, but I think it's going to end up OK. This study is a piece of garbage though and falls into bad research, as the software wasn't used as intended in the car.

        So, you know for a fact that users are actually using them as intended in the car? My wife uses Siri in the car all the time. It's legal "hands-free". But she doesn't ever use a headset. So she's not using it in the "intended" manner. If most follow her lead, then the study is valid. As you are so certain it's invalid, then you must have some information about what percentage of people use them "as intended", otherwise the only piece of garbage here isn't the study, but your post.

        • by SkimTony (245337) on Tuesday April 30, 2013 @11:25PM (#43597553)

          I don't think the study was garbage, but I don't think it was all that helpful. They should've tested the recommended configuration and mode; if that turned out to be safer, then you could use the study to encourage people to change their behaviour. This study a) draws blanket conclusions it wasn't designed to test, and b) doesn't answer the most relevant question, i.e., "Is texting still bad if you don't have to look away from the road?"

          • by AK Marc (707885)
            I disagree. It's a valid result for what they tested. If the makers want to fund one where it's used as "intended" then they can. If the results differ, then we can look into using them in a more "recommended" manner and change the used manner that was tested. The study made conclusions based on the test results.
    • by s.petry (762400)

      I think the complaint is based on the perception that visual distraction is way worse than any other form of distraction while driving. The problem of course, is that we know that visual processing is not the only inhibitor.

      Think of all the times you almost caused an accident when emotionally distressed for example. I can name a dozen easily, where I was so (insert emotional state like angry, excited, sad) where I simply lost focus on the road. Talking while driving may invoke a similar emotional respons

    • Yep. Talking with other people in the car should be illegal. Music should be illegal, remove radios from cars. In fact, GPS are also distracting, take em away!

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by characterZer0 (138196)

      The sound quality coming from other people in the car is great. The sound quality from your phone is compartively terrible. Your brain has to do a lot of extra work to parse language coming from a low-quality source, which impairs your ability to drive. I would be interested in a comparison between talking on the phone and listening to AM talk radio.

      • by AaronW (33736)

        I recall hearing this at one point. I don't recall if it was in one of my science magazines or on NPR's Science Friday but it makes a lot of sense, especially now that we know that the brain is not all that great at multitasking like we once thought.

        I also would love to see more studies on this.

        • by Culture20 (968837)

          The sound quality coming from other people in the car is great. The sound quality from your phone is compartively terrible. Your brain has to do a lot of extra work to parse language coming from a low-quality source, which impairs your ability to drive. I would be interested in a comparison between talking on the phone and listening to AM talk radio.

          I recall hearing this at one point. I don't recall if it was in one of my science magazines or on NPR's Science Friday but it makes a lot of sense

          Yeah, NPR would say that about AM radio.

    • by doom (14564)

      I thought it has been long established through research that even a hands free cradle talking on the phone is a dangerous distraction while driving, Can't see how this can be less of a distraction than that even if it is better than manual texting. People have enough accidents without additional distractions.

      Oh please, issues like that pale in significance compared to the important business of selling the latest consumer crap electronics.

  • Distraction. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by MrL0G1C (867445) on Tuesday April 30, 2013 @06:22PM (#43595701) Journal

    When you're driving you should be concentrating on driving, that's it, anything else can lead to an accident because your mind is not on the task at hand.

    So, no, you shouldn't be pissing about sending texts, if you don't like it, get a bus/train where you can text to your hearts delight.

    If you're so f**kin important that you need to text, then get a chauffeur.

    • by Ironchew (1069966)

      if you don't like it, get a bus/train where you can text to your hearts delight.

      Among numerous other reasons, this is why we need a far more reliable public transportation system (The nearest bus stop where I live is almost 3 miles away and it only gets service once a day). If buses and trains were commonplace, law enforcement could penalize reckless/distracted driving far more harshly and the number of drivers texting while driving would quickly approach zero.

      • by 0123456 (636235)

        The nearest bus stop where I live is almost 3 miles away and it only gets service once a day

        So you want the bus to run empty for three dozen trips a day just in case you decide to take it?

        • by AK Marc (707885)
          It does anyway. The point is, if it's going to operate as such a massive money loss, why can't it at least be a useful money loss?
    • by pollarda (632730)

      I'd gladly buy a bus or train.... It's just that they are so much more expensive.
      Wouldn't crashing a bus or train though while texting be so much more catastrophic than when driving a car?

      • by AK Marc (707885)
        I've never seen anyone accidentally drift out of their lane while texting from a train.
        • As I recall, someone crashed a train and/or subway while texting awhile back. Whether if caused the crash is really unknown other than texting got the blame.
  • Pros AND Cons (Score:2, Insightful)

    by ganjadude (952775)
    they both exist. I can only speak for myself and people I know who have used voice commands while driving, however EVERYONE, myself included, will speak to their phone for the text, HOWEVER we all double check the msg before hitting send. I think that is where the issue lies. we simply dont trust siri or google voice or other text to type things to be 100% yet. and until that can be true (if it can ever be) it will never be as safe as simply driving and not doing other things.
  • I don't really agree with this guy, based on how texting is currently done. Most of us like reading their texts (or proofreading speech-to-texts), and few of us use text-to-speech, so the "eyes free" situation really isn't that common. I *really* don't think that using "Siri is just as risky as texting" is misleading at all, in our current accepted usage.
  • The research is still valid in the sense that most people probably have no idea about "car mode" and "no-eyes" mode. That said, even if you were to consider only those who are aware of such features as your test subjects, I wonder if the data would be any different (provided the test subjects are not explicitly told they must use no-eyes mode and car-mode). I know that if car-mode and no-eyes mode puts many restrictions on Siri, then (for me), Siri would not be as useful.
    • by icebike (68054)

      The research is still valid in the sense that most people probably have no idea about "car mode" and "no-eyes" mode.

      Hmmm, seems a little shallow to claim the research is valid when it blames the device for ignorance of the operator.

      The real problem is something like 60 or 70% of the people have given up on SIRI all together because it just doesn't work all that well.

      • by rs1n (1867908)

        The research is still valid in the sense that most people probably have no idea about "car mode" and "no-eyes" mode.

        Hmmm, seems a little shallow to claim the research is valid when it blames the device for ignorance of the operator.

        The real problem is something like 60 or 70% of the people have given up on SIRI all together because it just doesn't work all that well.

        Except it doesn't blame the device for the ignorance of the operator. The ignorance of the operator is already a given -- they're texting while driving, or trying to do the equivalent thinking that the way they (mis)use Siri makes it safer to text. That they additionally are ignorant of the different modes only further supports the idea that texting while driving (regardless of how it is done) is generally less safer than not texting. At worst, they would simply need to modify it to say that "the way most p

      • by fnj (64210)

        Yes; GP's attitude seems to be a massively popular one, as well as an absurd and irrational one. But we already knew people were stupid, and always want to force other people who aren't stupid to live with the results of that stupidity.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday April 30, 2013 @06:26PM (#43595751)

    If the study tested Siri the way Siri is normally used, then how Siri was designed to be used is irrelevant.

    • by Bieeanda (961632)
      "Those bastards at the military, they took it and... and they twisted it! My invention was intended only for peaceful purposes, and they turned it into a weapon!"
      • by skine (1524819)

        http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QdhwTXwhA4c [youtube.com]

        Professor: It works! It works!

        *car drives into hangar, stops, and passengers get out*

        President: Professor?
        Professor: You should not be here! This is private property!

        *Professor turns around*

        Professor: Mr. President! I'm so sorry.
        President: Ah, good evening professor. This is Major Agnew. Major Agnew, Professor.
        Professor: Mr. President, this is indeed an honor. I had no idea.
        President: Well, our country has been pouring a lot of money into this secret research of you

  • Driving Performance (Score:5, Interesting)

    by CanHasDIY (1672858) on Tuesday April 30, 2013 @06:26PM (#43595757) Homepage Journal

    Of course your driving performance is going to be degraded if you're reading screens and pushing buttons,'

    See, shit like this is why the Prophet Hicks was so adamant in his belief that advertising people should do the world a favor and kill themselves.

    FYI, asshole, it's an issue because humans cannot multitask, and every second you pay attention to that goddamn toy is one more second you're not paying attention to the road.

    Perhaps Mr. My-Sales-Figures-Are-More-Important-Than-Your-Safety should read the stacks upon stacks of other studies that prove any distraction from driving is dangerous. Even talking to the guy in the passenger seat. [teendriversource.org]

    • by stanlyb (1839382)
      Actually, men cannot multitask, women are famous with this and some other "features", unlike men.
      • by Sique (173459) on Tuesday April 30, 2013 @07:38PM (#43596331) Homepage
        Actually, women don't perform any better than men at multitasking. Within both sexes, about 2-5% can really multitask, and everyone else basicly sucks at it. It's just that somehow upbringing and social roles allow women to still try multitasking and be content with the less-than-average productivity and quality.
    • by mark-t (151149)

      it's an issue because humans cannot multitask...

      Wholly untrue. Or do you think most humans are incapable of even walking and chewing at the same time?

    • ...humans cannot multitask

      They can, up to the point they bite on the gristle in the quarter pounder (royale with cheese) and decide the fries taste like they were fried in pus freshly squeezed from a pimple. At that point there is no alternative to texting your friends about your sorry fate and dying in a fiery explosion.

  • Co-inventor? WTF? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by stanlyb (1839382)
    If you did invent 50% of the app, you could claim the "co-invent" title, but if it is about 0.0000000....1%, are you a thief or "co"-inventor?
    • Siri is a spin-out from the SRI International Artificial Intelligence Center, and is an offshoot of the DARPA-funded CALO project

      Your government paid for Siri .... why is Apple able to monoplise it ?

  • Sure, ideally you'd never look at the screen. But are we sure most people wouldn't proofread messages and manually press send once happy? Maybe the study looked at what most people would consider voice-to-text, and how this form of VTT would affect driving.

  • If you handle a gun, your priority is safety. Your safety and that of others. That is your first priority and the own priority.
    Traffic is dangerous too, so it's the same there.
    If your bloody text messages are so important that it can't wait 10 minutes, you better be so bloody important that you can afford a driver.
    Of not, your focus on the traffic.

  • by SuperBanana (662181) on Tuesday April 30, 2013 @06:57PM (#43596013)
    Merely having a conversation with someone impacts your driving; passengers tend to be aware of circumstances like intersections, onramps, cyclists, etc - but people on the other end of your call can't be. It's why Ray Lahood and NHTSA wanted cell phone calls by drivers to end, period. Then there's the issue of control of the car; regardless of whether or not you're "eyes free", if you're holding something in you hand, you're not able to control your vehicle as well as you can with two hands on the wheel. I attended a driving handling clinic (which was insanely fun) where they had you do a slalom course normally, and then do it holding a water bottle to the side of your head; the results speak for themselves.
    • by mark-t (151149)

      Under nominal and expected driving conditions, where speed is relatively constant, and one is not performing any kind of maneuver which may involve negotiating with unpredictable traffic flow, the task of driving, at least by an experienced driver, does not require any significant amount of concentration, and so engaging in conversation would not be so distracting as to endanger anyone.

      If you can walk in a straight line and chew food at the same time, and if you are already otherwise a competent driver,

      • Under nominal and expected driving conditions...

        And that's where everything goes wrong. You know, under "normal and expected conditions" there isn't any dogshit on the sidewalk, but guess what?

        I'm aware that not every situation is deal... but a driver who's actually otherwise competent should be able to recognize those situations the instant that they arise..

        Unless of course they're busy with whatever else they do under "normal and expected conditions." Switching attention takes time---there's a reason why sprinters are not chatting on the phone right up until they hear the starting gun.

        • by mark-t (151149)
          Such situations are generally far more anticipatable by an experienced driver than you give them credit for... In the relatively few instances where they are not, and I'm speaking from personal experience here, not happening to be using a cell phone at the time doesn't tend to make such an imminent situation more preventable.

          Disengaging from a conversation to do something else that you were not otherwise planning to do should take no more time than doing what you were going to do anyways... you just stop

    • It is not that the other people in the car are paying attention, it is that the sound quality is so much worse from your phone that your brain has to devote much more attention to parsing language.

  • I don't care how Siri was 'designed to be used'. I care abut how it actually works in practice.
    Do people actually look at the screen? Yes.
    Is it stable enough and good enough that people actually trust it to not screw up the text? No.

    I may be a biased commentator, but I am currently on the hunt for a replacement vehicle specifically because of a texting driver. Luckily, I am still vertical and breathing.
    • While I was one of the first to criticize the "You're holding it wrong" response from Apple, in this situation, he does hold some validity. Sure, if you are using the hands-on mode, it is just as dangerous, but if there are driving oriented controls, it should at least be mentioned in the study that they exist but were explicitly disregarded. Who knows if those in the study would have used that mode if they weren't explicitly told how to use the device in the study. I have no idea how Siri works or what its

    • Maybe you should have put the phone down and you wouldn't have gotten in a terrible accident. You're putting everybody at risk.
  • Always test it as it is being used by the users. Not the way it is designed to be used by the designers. It does not matter what the designer thinks how it should be used. Testing it according to the design manual is like debugging software by stepping through the comments instead of looking at code.
  • As Hagbard Celine was wont to say, "if you whistle while you're pissing, you have two minds where one is quite sufficient. If you have two minds, you are at war with yourself. If you are at war with yourself, it is easy for an external force to defeat you. This is why Mong-Tse wrote, 'A man must destroy himself before others can destroy him.'"
  • ...is that voice-to-text software is so remarkably unreliable that nobody uses it without proofreading the output before sending. I think most people could have told you this without an official study.

    And just for the obtuse, it isn't that it completely misunderstands everything you say, it's that when you're sending texts, the things it tends to fail to translate properly tend to be things that get your text posted to one of those autocorrect-joke sites. Or get you in trouble with the wife/husband/parents/

  • I ride my bike. The more car drivers' heads are up, the safer I am. The heck with jerks trying to tout their products at the expense of public safety.

  • I have an iPhone 4S but I long ago concluded that Siri is useless. It doesn't understand conversational speech and requires pressing and holding the button every time you want it to do anything. Its speech recognition only gets about 50-60% of words correct. I tried dictating a text in the car about twice before deciding it was entirely reckless and dangerous.

    Every example I've ever heard of using Siri has been stupid pointless stuff I would never do anyway. It would be nice if it had an AI capable of takin

  • by emaname (1014225) on Wednesday May 01, 2013 @10:10AM (#43600101)

    Admittedly, I'm an "old guy" so maybe I'm way out of touch with the times, but I'm fairly tech-savvy, well-educated, so FWIW...

    I've had 4 very unsettling experiences of near head-on collisions. Each time I saw the other driver look up and get a very astonished look on their face after which they (thankfully) swerved back into their lane.

    Meanwhile I was slowing down while maneuvering for safety on the shoulder or sidewalk.

    I can only hope that the person who claims texting while driving is NOT a distraction has the same experience, at some point.

    As far as talking on a phone is concerned, I have my doubts about that, too.

    Again, this is from my personal experience, so YMMV.

    I deal with a wide variety of subjects. Some of them are design-oriented. While discussing a subject re the design of something, I find myself visualizing that which I'm attempting to describe. Those are the times I've found myself vulnerable to inattentive driving. For example, I've had some close calls rear-ending other vehicles or missed my turn-off. I DO make a point of getting over to the slow lane and dropping my speed, but I've been surprised by a semi or two that had changed into my lane further up the road in front of me. I missed it because I was... distracted. So I've been guilty, too. (Apparently, something is not happening between my visual cortex and other cognitive functions. Although, my friends from the 60's would probably say... well, never mind. That's for another post.)

    Now I hand my phone to my wife and ask her to take the call or exit or pull way off on the shoulder (which isn't all that safe either now-a-days). And when I get a call from someone whose name/cell number I recognize, I ask if they're driving first. I don't want to be the person on the other end of a phone call that contributed to an accident. Besides, I still think most of our phone calls can wait.

    Come to think of it, I've even had people walk into me or nearly walk into me in stores while talking/texting on their phones.

    Anyhow, please be careful, folks.

    Oh yeah... and get off my lawn, kid.

"In matters of principle, stand like a rock; in matters of taste, swim with the current." -- Thomas Jefferson

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