Study: Voice-based Navigation Safer Way to Get Around

VTTI research suggests vocal control systems have sizeable advantage

Apr 14, 2011, 13:30 ET from General Motors

DETROIT, April 14, 2011 /PRNewswire/ --

  • Voice-based Turn-By-Turn Direction service result in better vehicle control
  • 80 percent of study participants preferred "least complicated option"
  • Drivers value visual aids in addition to audio directions

A recent study by OnStar and the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute (VTTI) found that voice-based telematics systems are a safer form of in-vehicle navigation compared to systems that rely solely on visual aids.

The OnStar-commissioned study evaluated a cell phone-based navigation application, a personal navigation device (PND), OnStar Turn-by-Turn directions and OnStar Destination Download, as well as printed driving directions. Researchers found that voiced-based OnStar Turn-by-Turn directions allowed drivers to keep their eyes on the road longer, required the shortest amount of time to enter a destination and resulted in better overall vehicle handling.

"Turn-by-Turn is OnStar's most requested service, with more than 2 million routes delivered per month, so we understand the importance of in-vehicle navigation to drivers," said Tom Jeffers, vice president, OnStar Public Policy. "That is why OnStar works with the leading institutions in the country to assess our services and other navigation technologies alike. We want to promote responsible technology that ensures drivers' hands are on the wheel, eyes are on the road and overall distraction is minimized."

The study evaluated 24 participants, aged 25 to 55, as they used the five different navigation options while driving. Inside the vehicle, audio and video footage of the drivers was captured, as well as the vehicle's key performance data. Researchers examined video of the driver's face, forward view and movements for analysis of eye glances and other motions.

Research showed that the two OnStar systems required significantly less mental effort than the personal navigation device and cell phone application. When asked about their preferences, 86.5 percent of participants liked "simple, quick instructions," and 80.8 percent indicated that they wanted the "least-complicated option."

"OnStar services are easy to use and don't require follow-up lessons and tutorials to operate, like other offerings on the market," said Jeffers. "With the simple push of a button, OnStar provides a human interaction that offers immediate, knowledgeable and personalized attention. This is what continues to set us apart from the competition."

The study also showed that drivers value visual information in addition to voice control, which is available with OnStar Destination Download. When participants were asked about their navigation preference, Destination Download received the largest percentage of being "Liked the Most."

"VTTI's research showed that participants seemed to favor the presence of visual information to accompany the audio directions," said Miguel Perez of Virginia Tech Transportation Institute. "Additionally, the results of the study showed sizeable advantages in the use of voice control for destination entry, suggesting that systems that offer an array of navigation options are preferred by drivers."  

Additionally, all systems except OnStar Turn-by-Turn navigation required more than 20 seconds of total glance duration while entering a destination.

Jeffers said that with April being Distracted Driving Awareness month, the results give some much-needed attention to possible distracted driving behaviors that put people at risk every day.

"What we know is that people are going to use technologies in their vehicles that may lead to distractions when they drive," said Jeffers. "We can't prevent them from doing so. But we can offer safe services such as Turn-By-Turn directions, which reduce distraction while still offering connectivity options."

About OnStar

OnStar, a wholly owned subsidiary of General Motors, is the leading provider of connected safety and security solutions, value-added mobility services and advanced information technology. Currently available on more than 40 MY 2011 GM models, OnStar soon will be available for installation on most other vehicles already on the road through local electronics retailers, including Best Buy. OnStar safely connects its more than six million subscribers, in the U.S., Canada and China, in ways never thought possible. OnStar Stolen Vehicle Slowdown is a recipient of the 2010 Edison Award for Best New Product in the technology category. More information about OnStar can be found at

About VTTI

VTTI is an international leader in transportation research. The institute is dedicated to conducting applied research from various perspectives by developing and using state-of-the-art tools, techniques, and technologies to solve various transportation challenges. By providing real-world research results, VTTI is effecting significant change in public policies in the transportation domain on the state, national, and international levels with the ultimate goal of saving lives, improving mobility and enhancing efficiency on our highways.

SOURCE General Motors