High-Tech Tools in Cars are Distracting for Drivers

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

A distracted driver. (Khromov Alexey/Shutterstock)

We all know the dangers of trying to use cellphones or any hand-held electronic devices while driving. With these concerns in mind, automakers have started offering voice-activated systems in cars that let drivers dictate emails and text messages.

Still, questions remain about whether these latest tricked-out cars are really any safer. Research shows that even though these systems allow drivers to keep their hands on the wheel, the tasks they allow us to perform while driving can be mentally distracting.

As Nicholas Carr, author of The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains explains: “Even when we have a technology that allows us to speak texts, even that is very distracting in a way that I don’t think that we’re so conscious of because we assume that if our eyes are focused out on the road that the fact that we’re composing something in our mind doesn’t impose on our attentiveness, when it fact it does.”

Distracted driving and our ongoing love of multitasking is an issue that Kara Miller, host of WGBH's Innovation Hub, has been exploring. She discusses the latest cutting edge technology showing up in cars and considers the implications for everyone’s safety. 



Kara Miller

Produced by:

Elizabeth Ross


T.J. Raphael

Comments [8]

Marjorie Blum from Croton, NY

Your story mentioned that "listening" is a distraction while driving. Ironically, that's what I (and I suppose millions of others) was doing -- listening to the very engaging story, paying attention to the details. Are you saying then that listening to the radio, especially intellectual stories, is a distraction for drivers? What's a person to do?

Jul. 31 2013 11:17 PM
Sharon Mosley

Will the automated car be similar to auto-correct in word documents, either correcting incorrectly or causing the driver to forget how to drive-use it or lose it, how to drive defensively or create a weakened problem-solving ability because the car does everything for you?

Jul. 31 2013 03:48 PM
Katherine Murphy from San Francisco

If it's dangerous to talk on the phone in the car hands-free, then isn't it too dangerous to speak to anyone in the car?

Jul. 31 2013 03:37 PM
bob from sf bay area

How distracting is listening to radio(about distracted driving) or talking to passengers

Jul. 31 2013 03:35 PM
sally from illinois

Distracted driving . . . my mother-in-law shaves her legs while she drives! (Recently, and not surprisingly, resulting in a sliced vein requiring 911 service!). Needless to say, my children are not allowed to be her passengers.

Jul. 31 2013 02:53 PM
Roger Carpenter from Portland, Oregon

Forget electronic distractions. Having a conversation with my wife sitting in the passenger seat has resulted in more near-misses than my hands-free phone or GPS.

Jul. 31 2013 01:32 PM
Hunter from Denton

What separates the experience of driving and talking on the phone from listening to cerebral radio programming like this show running now?

Jul. 31 2013 12:29 PM

What if the new "smart system" malfunctions while the car is moving??? ...thinking of my automatic window opener and what a pain it is when broken. ...Always wishing I just had a old fashioned window crank handle.

Jul. 31 2013 09:34 AM

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