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Is Siri Really Going to Help Drivers Be Safer?

Even 25 years ago, it would have seemed the stuff of futuristic science fiction that most people believed they would never see in their lifetime. With the impending and inevitable integration of Apple’s “Siri” into millions of cars, however, the auto makers of today are turning David Hasselhoff’s Knight Rider into an antique.

For those who have been living in a broom closet for the past few years, Siri is what the late, great Steve Jobs of Apple called the “intelligent personal assistant that helps you get things done just by asking. You can just use your voice to send messages, schedule meetings, set reminders, ask directions,” all through your (up till now) mobile phone. Now car makers are lining up to build Siri, the amazing I-Phone software application, into cars.

Car accident attorneys and other safety advocates, however, are asking, “Is Siri really a good thing?”

Earlier this month, Apple, in traditional grand style, launched the latest version of Siri as a vehicle integration system that can be accessed by drivers simply tapping their steering wheel.  The overwhelming feedback was that, once again, Apple has hit the bulls eye in terms of what the public wants.

Safety analysts, however, are divided on whether the introduction of Siri to an automobiles list of features in necessarily a good thing. Proponents say:

  • Siri makes accessing information and making calls not just hands free, but eyes free. They say this will cut back on the number of distracted driving accidents because users never have to take their eyes off the road to send texts or read them. They can simply listen to them while focusing on what’s going on around them.
  • Even in its infancy, the in-car Siri is better than anything the auto makers have been developing and introducing into their vehicles to date.
  • Having Siri in the car virtually rips the cell phones out of the hands of drivers, which, after all, has been the number one priority of U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood since he took office.

Not everyone agrees, however. They point to the fact that distracted driving accidents are still on the increase, even with the introduction of hands free phones and other in-car devices. Opponents say:

  • Rather than deterring drivers from distracted behavior, having Siri in the car is more likely to encourage drivers to take part in even more activities than the one thing they should be focused on, and that’s getting safely from Point A to Point B.
  • Hands free systems are nothing new. Auto makers have been building such systems into cars for a number of years now, but distracted driving accidents continue virtually unabated. Chrysler has been offering U-Connect and Ford has Sync. These systems allow drivers to make phone calls and access information through voice commands, so critics of the new Siri storm say Siri doesn’t really bring anything new to the table.

Siri Works Better Than Other Comparable Products

Whether it’s the Apple marketing department’s skillful sell or simply the track record of existing phenomenally successful Apple products already on the market, the major car manufacturers appear to be sold on Siri. And industry analysts like Ed Kim of Asia Pacific said it was bound to happen. “The way…Siri works is better than what any of the other automaker devices can do. So why not just let the phone do it itself?”

No lesser a motor company than Mercedes seems to agree. They, along with Chrysler, have already committed to having Siri integrated into their new models in just 12 months. Moving that quickly to embrace what is still new technology caused some gasps in the motor world. Analysts say making such a one-year commitment is unprecedented.

Kim, however, said Mercedes and Chrysler are either bowing to the inevitable or getting a head start on their competition, depending on your point of view. It’s quite possible, he says, that auto makers will simply give up their attempts to introduce their own voice activation systems and just leave it to the experts—like Apple—to do it for them. Either way, Kim sees no way back from the headlong rush to introduce hands free technology into motor vehicles.

Apple aren’t usually the first, just the most successful

Apple, of course, wouldn’t be the first to bring hands free or voice-activated technology to cars, as already stated. However, on a global scale, the company seems to have the ability to take a great idea and not just make it better, but make it cool, as well. For example:

While it’s not a cast iron, foregone conclusion, you’d want very long odds to bet against Apple having the same level of success with their in-car Siri system. Telecom industry analyst Jeff Silva, of Medley Global Advisors wouldn’t bet against Apple. “They captured the cool factor and made it iconic in pretty much everything they’ve done so far,” Silva said. “That’s really their genius…among other things.”

Siri Has Been Questioned By Several Driving Safety Groups

A number of road safety groups have not jumped on the Siri bandwagon just yet. Kara Macek of the Governors Highway Safety Association has adopted more of a  wait-and-see approach. According to Macek, Siri’s eyes free technology certainly changes the playing field, but she said, “We are always very concerned about bringing in technology to the vehicle which would distract from the task in hand.”

So far, that statement would mostly have been considered as applying to hand held devices, which 39 states have now banned drivers from using. With Siri, we’ll just have to wait and see.

Personal injury attorneys welcome any technology that improves road safety, as they’ve seen the results of what can happen when drivers get distracted. In Oregon, thousands of people are seriously injured in traffic accidents every year. Bicyclists, pedestrians, people stopped at red lights or waiting to make a turn are too often the victims of drivers who weren’t paying attention, and this is frequently caused by the use of cell phones in cars.

Whether Siri will help or hurt the situation is as yet unknown, but for now, distracted driving accidents will continue to injure and kill Oregon road users. If a distracted driver has hurt you or a member of your family, you should contact the best Portland personal injury lawyer you can find for a free consultation. They will listen with compassion to your story and then fight hard to get you and your family the compensation you deserve.