Voice-activated car infotainment systems, Apple's Siri rated for driver distraction

Two new studies rate the voice-activated dashboard infotainment systems of six major automakers and the Apple iPhone's Siri voice command system according to how much distraction they create for drivers. Apple and Google are working with automakers to mesh smartphones with infotainment systems so that drivers can bring their apps, navigation and music files into their cars.

The studies, both by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety and the University of Utah, rated the systems on a scale of 1 to 5, with 1 representing no distraction and 5 comparable to doing complex math problems and word memorization.

The rating system was established in a previous study, which gave a 1.21 for drivers listening to the radio, 1.75 for listening to a book on tape, 2.27 for using a hands-free cellphone, 2.33 for talking with a passenger, 2.45 for using a hand-held cellphone and 3.06 for using a speech-to-text system that recognizes commands perfectly to compose and listen to emails.

The ratings:

— 1.7 for Toyota's Entune

— 2.2 for Hyundai's Blue Link

— 2.7 for Chrysler's UConnect

— 3.0 for Ford SYNC with MyFord Touch

— 3.1 for Mercedes' COMAND

— 4.14 for Apple's Siri

The systems were tested by 162 university students and other volunteers in three settings: a laboratory, a driving simulator and in cars while driving through a Salt Lake City neighborhood. Most of the infotainment systems were in 2013 model year cars. The Siri system was version iOS 7, but researchers said they were able to adapt it so that it was nearly identical to the iOS 8 version, which is the latest.