Are Systems Like Apple CarPlay the Answer to Distracted Driving?
Recently, Apple announced its latest offering – CarPlay. This is how it works: once an iPhone is plugged in, CarPlay would allow the user to place phone calls, send text messages, check voicemail, navigate, and perform other tasks while limiting the number of distractions that would cause the driver to take his or her eyes off the road. According to Apple, everything offered via CarPlay would be controlled by Siri (depending on the car’s capabilities), allowing drivers to keep their eyes on the road. With this new technology, Apple would be jumping into the ring with automakers and tech companies that already offer the seamless interaction between cellphones and cars, all with the hope of decreasing instances of distracted driving.
With the announcement of this latest development, however, one has to wonder whether these well-intentioned new technologies may be more burdensome than beneficial. Although users would be able to control the system with their voices, it seems that users could still be distracted in a number of ways. For example, users may still have to look over in order to interact with the touchscreen or push buttons if necessary. If Siri’s transcription of a dictated text message is inaccurate, users will need to re-dictate the message, redirecting concentration from the road, where it belongs, to something that is not nearly as important. At the very least, the level of distraction may also depend on the type of controls you have in your car: are you using just voice control? Touch screen? Knobs and buttons?
For all of the discussions about improving safety and decreasing the number of distractions we face when driving, it may very well be the case that these developments aren’t doing any good. Recent studies have shown that driver reaction times were doubled regardless of whether the individual was texting manually or within an application like CarPlay. In addition, they have also shown that talking on a hand-held device is only slightly more distracting than using a hands-free device. Factor in applications such as CarPlay and it seems likely that the risk of distraction would increase even more.
Critics (validly) maintain that these developers are trading in safety for convenience – placing the desire to stay in touch and multi-task ahead of efforts to truly keep drivers focused on the road. Are these integrative technologies like CarPlay truly the answer? Or, will having the power to increase our connectivity at our fingertips while driving only make matters worse?