Car controls ‘must improve on highly-distracting touch screens’
Transport research lab TRL has warned the technology must get better so road safety is not compromised.
Apps such Android Auto and Apple Car Play already enable drivers to make calls, get satnav directions and play music using voice commands.
However, such systems can only understand a limited number of spoken instructions.
TRL said there was a need for “conversational artificial intelligence” to be developed so more complex command could be correctly recognised.
Scot Dr Neale Kinnear, its head of behavioural science, said a new report by organisation showed current voice-activated systems threatened road safety.
He said: “Driver distraction is widely recognised as an important road safety issue.
“The more attention a driver diverts away from the main driving task, the more their driving behaviour will be negatively affected.
“The results of this study clearly show touch control ‘infotainment’ systems are highly distracting to drivers, far more so than voice-activated systems.
“However, even current voice control systems increase drivers’ reaction times and remain a concern for road safety.
“This is why TRL is recommending we put our efforts into developing a framework for testing and improving the human factors of such systems.
“This includes improving voice activation as a method of control, as this has the opportunity to greatly reduce the workload on a driver thanks to innovations being made in conversational artificial intelligence (AI).
“TRL would like to see safety standards improved around infotainment systems, not just by their definition, but also through the harmonisation of standards across the entire transport sector.”
“To improve the use and safety impact of in-vehicle technologies, an agreed framework for testing is required to which system manufacturers can demonstrate their safe use before bringing [them] to market.
“Alongside improvements in voice-activated systems, there is opportunity to improve systems so we don’t make the driving task more complicated in the future.”
The report was commissioned by motoring groups IAM Roadsmart, FIA Road Safety and Rees Jeffreys Road Fund.
TRL said driver distraction was estimated to be a factor in up to 30 per cent of collisions across Europe.
Andy Peart, chief marketing and strategy officer at AI firm Artificial Solutions, said: “There is no doubt conversational AI will be the defining technology of the next decade.
“As it becomes smarter, faster and more advanced, AI will be of immense benefit to in-vehicle systems by allowing more complex user demands to be understood and fulfilled, as well as enabling multi-directional interaction to occur between the system and the consumer.”
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