As Apple squares off with Microsoft to determine which will become the dominant operating system for in-vehicle infotainment programs, there is another factor to consider. A study backed by AAA and conducted by the University of Utah found that some hands-free functions can be nearly as distracting to drivers as talking on a hand-held cellphone.
The study's findings are not sufficient to challenge the industry's drive to use voice-controlled software or to derail the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration as it works to devise guidelines for cellphones and voice-to-text software in light vehicles.
But the results suggest more research is necessary. As automakers compete to include more of the up-to-date, voice-controlled functionality that customers demand in vehicles, it would be wrong to create a false sense of safety and give consumers exactly what they want, even if it kills them.