TRL research suggests voice-activated in-car technologies are less distracting than touchscreens and could be the future of automotive infotainment if combined with artificial intelligence (AI).
Currently, voice control systems only understand a set of key commands but conversational AI could help enable 'a versatile, natural interaction' - similar to the famous AI car K.I.T.T. (pictured) from the 1980s TV show Knight Rider starring David Hasselhoff.
TRL's recommendations came in a recent report, commissioned by IAM Roadsmart, FIA Road Safety and Rees Jeffreys Road Fund, into the impacts of in-vehicle infotainment systems such as Android Auto and Apple CarPlay on driving performance.
Driver distraction estimated to be a factor in up to 30% of vehicle collisions across Europe.
Highways England chief executive Jim O’Sullivan has previously warned about the dangers of in-car technology and called said the automotive industry should ensure that any distractions should be more than compensated for with other safety technologies.
Dr Neale Kinnear, head of behavioural science at TRL, explained: 'The results of this study clearly show that 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. 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 to market
Andy Peart, chief marketing and strategy officer at Artificial Solutions, said 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.'