The impact of speech-based assistants on the driver's cognitive distraction

Accid Anal Prev. 2023 Jan;179:106898. doi: 10.1016/j.aap.2022.106898. Epub 2022 Nov 17.


Speech-based interfaces can be a promising alternative and/or addition to visual-manual interfaces since they reduce visual-manual distraction while driving. However, there are also findings indicating that speech-based assistants may be a source of cognitive distraction. The aim of this experiment was to quantify drivers' cognitive distraction while interacting with speech-based assistants. Therefore, 31 participants performed a simulated driving task and a detection response task (DRT). Concurrently they either sent text-messages via speech-based assistants (Siri, Google Assistant, or Alexa) or completed an arithmetic task (OSPAN). In a multifactorial approach, following Strayer et al. (2017), cognitive distraction was then assessed through performance in the DRT, the driving speed, the task completion time and self-report measures. The cognitive distraction associated with speech-based assistants was compared to the OSPAN task and a baseline condition without a secondary task. Participants reacted faster and more accurately to the DRT in the baseline condition compared to the speech conditions. The performance in the speech conditions was significantly better than in the OSPAN task. However, driving speed did not significantly differ between the experimental conditions. Results from the NASA-TLX indicate that speech-based tasks were more demanding than the baseline but less demanding than the OSPAN task. The task completion times revealed significant differences between speech-based assistants. Sending messages took longest with the Google Assistant. Referring to the findings by Strayer et al. (2017), we conclude that nowadays speech-based assistants are associated with a rather moderate than high level of cognitive distraction. Nonetheless, we point towards the need to assess the effects of human-machine interaction via speech-based interfaces due to their potential for cognitive distraction.

Keywords: Cognitive workload; Driver distraction; Safety risk; Speech-based assistants.

MeSH terms

  • Accidents, Traffic
  • Automobile Driving*
  • Cognition
  • Distracted Driving*
  • Humans
  • Speech