Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Ford leads with technology to battle texting while driving


Ford leads with technology to battle texting while driving

Ford researches voice-to-text technology

2010 Lincoln MKZ: A wide suite of features and technology is available in the 2010 Lincoln MKZ, including SYNC with 911 Assist and Vehicle Health Report, Voice-Activated Navigation, SIRIUS Travel Link and reverse camera.

After recently announcing support for a nationwide law to ban texting while driving Ford Motor Company is researching more efficient voice-to-text technology to add to and enhance the already popular hands free safety features currently available on Ford vehicles.

"A voice-recognition approach is better than bringing in a piece of paper and unfolding a map or looking down at a mobile device," said Ford's director of electronics, Jim Buczkowski after a press conference Monday where Ford announced that CEO Alan Mulally will, for the second consecutive year, deliver the opening keynote address at the 2010 Consumer Electronics Show. "We're looking at various combinations of accomplishing that task because it's being asked for by consumers."

Ford's in-car Sync system is already a hit with consumers. The Sync system reads text messages and operates cell phones with simple voice commands. This hands free technology has been a strong selling point for customers who previously hadn’t considered Ford products. Roughly 70% of the vehicles Ford sells now include the $395 option, Buczkowski said.

See related poll below

Recent studies show the advantage of voice operated hands free technology

Although previous studies have concluded that there is very little difference between hand held and hands free cell phone use in terms of the impact on distracted driving, Ford cites recent results from a study by the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute that indicates a sharp increase by as much as 23% in the risk of crashes by a driver who is texting compared to one who isn’t.

The VTTI research was conducted using a naturalistic study method which they contend measures a driver’s attention in an environment closer to those experienced under actual driving conditions. The study goes on to state that headset cell phone use is not substantially safer than hand held use because the primary risk associated with both tasks is answering, dialing, and other tasks that require your eyes to be off the road.

A PDF version of the full report from VTTI can be downloaded for reading here.

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