Driver Distraction Levels Dramatically Reduced Through Use of In-Vehicle Voice-Based Texting According to Agero-VirginiaTech Study Presented at Transportation Research Board Annual Meeting

-- Eye glance data shows voice texting reduces by 20 times the frequency drivers' eyes are off the road.

-- Drivers found voice systems easy to use, intuitive, and more conducive to surveying their surroundings.

-- Voice-based systems essentially erased the gap that exists between younger and older drivers in driving performance when using handheld devices.

Jan 26, 2012, 17:54 ET from Agero

WASHINGTON, Jan. 26, 2012 /PRNewswire/ -- Interactive voice systems for outbound text messaging reduced levels of driver distraction when compared to drivers manually texting on a smartphone according to Tom Schalk, vice president of Voice Technologies for Agero, a leader in driver assistance programs including connected vehicle (also known as telematics technology).


Schalk's reported findings were presented at the Transportation Research Board's (TRB) 91st annual meeting this week as part of a technical paper outlining the conclusions of a three-month study conducted last year by the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute (VTTI). The research was conducted in tandem with the company's development of two in-vehicle features - voice-based, outbound texting and destination entry into the vehicle's navigation system.

Agero develops and integrates customized, private-labeled connected vehicle services, including voice- Web-, and wireless handset/tablet-based interfaces between owners and their vehicles for global automobile manufacturers.

The VTTI study supports interactive voice applications using natural speech language for in-vehicle tasks rather than manual interaction and visual focus on the part of the driver, with the voice applications reducing those periods when hands are off the steering wheel and eyes are off the road," Schalk said.

Key conclusions from the VTTI research included:

  • Eye glance data indicated Agero's voice interface is safer than the equivalent manual interface for entering text messages. For manual texting by drivers, the number of eye glances to the mobile phone was measured to be 20 times the number of glances to the initiating button required for the outbound voice texting.
  • Data also revealed that eye glance durations and the percentage of time a driver's eyes were off the road were shorter using the Agero voice interface as compared to comparable tasks performed using the handheld phone. 
  • Based on study participants' subjective responses, all handheld tasks required significantly more mental workload demand – more than double in all cases on average – than the Agero voice-based tasks. Similar findings were also recorded for frustration levels, a measurement that correlates with stress and annoyance in the performance of tasks.
  • Drivers' self-perceived awareness of their surrounding environment was higher when engaged in voice-based tasks as compared to those completed manually.  Reliance on voice-based systems didn't affect drivers' ability to complete the tasks they were asked to perform.
  • Voice-based systems essentially erased the gap that exists between younger and older drivers in driving performance when using handheld devices.
  • Participating drivers also found the Agero voice interfaces intuitive and easy to learn (96%) and felt the voice interfaces performed well (92%).

"While we can't conclude at this point that voice interfaces eliminate driver distraction, the data indicates that voice can certainly reduce the risk," Schalk said. "With the improvements in acoustically modeling the vehicle cockpit, extending language models, voice interface metrics, and simplified dialogue design, we can reduce the risk even more."

About Agero

Agero (formerly Cross Country Automotive Services and ATX Group) is the leading provider of roadside assistance, claims management and connected vehicle services for the automotive, insurance and aftermarket industries. Based in Medford, Mass., the company has operations throughout North America and offices in Europe. For more information, visit

Agero is a member of The Cross Country Group of companies (CCG).  CCG is a Boston-based organization comprised of operating businesses and investments that specialize in private-label, technology-enabled service programs for global corporate clients.