Voice navigation in cars has pretty much become a standard feature when buying a new vehicle. Now you don’t have to think about how to get where you’re going – just plug in the address and that soothing voice will direct you there. It’s like having a little buddy in the car with you. Hell, as robot technology becomes more and more prevalent, you might even become best friends.
But hold on a second – that might not be such a good idea (for reasons other than the obvious). Researchers from Michigan State University, Eindhoven University of Technology and Stanford University came together for a study that found that drivers are more likely to get into an accident the more they like and identify with the voice in their car.
The participants first chose which car they would prefer from a catalogue of options and then rated five different navigation voices based on friendliness, human likeness, similarity to them and intelligence. Then they got in a driving simulator consisting of an Oculus Rift, a steering wheel, pedals, and a voice instructor – which they were told was just a randomly selected one for research purposes, but was actually either the highest or lowest choice from their previous ratings.
Apparently, the participants who had a strong connection with the voice navigation were more likely to crash during the simulation than those who didn’t care for their navigation. The title of the paper that the research team will be putting together to share these findings is humourously called “KITT, Please Stop Distracting Me: Examining the Effects of Communication in Cars and Social Presence on Safe Driving”. They’ll be unveiling it at the upcoming International Communication Association in Japan in hopes that the results should be taken into consideration by car manufacturers when designing their onboard car navigation systems.
So, try not to get too friendly with that GPS lady of yours…