Return of the Guru

Drivers Welcome More Distractions

Ara Trembly
Insurance Experts' Forum, November 7, 2011

A new survey from Harman confirms that most drivers want talk-to-type emails and voice texts, according to a posting on CE Outlook.

Seven out of 10 surveyed say they want voice control over phone calls, audio and navigation, and they are willing to pay for it, according to the survey of 500 people commissioned by Harman. Eighty percent said they would pay a premium for voice control. Only 30 percent believed that touch or in-dash controls were better than voice.

Interestingly, 70 percent see voice control as making driving safer. According to the posting: “Commuters don’t want to be ‘disconnected’ from their life for an hour when they get in the car. They want to ‘waste less time’ in the car."

Clearly there is a strong market for devices and technologies that enable us to connect at every possible moment during the driving experience. From an insurance point of view, as I have mentioned here previously, this is a nightmare waiting to happen. What really disturbs me, however, is the notion that if drivers want to put themselves at increased risk by having more distractions at hand, we should all be in favor of that.

Did I say increased risk? Yes, those who think voice control will making driving safer are no doubt speculating that it’s safer to say a command than to push a button physically. Maybe that’s so, but we also have to consider that there will be many commands to say and—inevitably—a readout monitor to check on what is going on. So if I have to think about what to tell my many car systems and then check on what the results are, am I more or less distracted than I was when all I had to worry about was my car radio?

My point is that while voice commands may be less physically demanding, the increasing demand on the Internet-connected driver’s attention is likely to be a problem. Of course, I want everyone to be as productive as possible while driving, but the more systems you have to think about, the less you can concentrate on driving. In fact, I can see a future scenario in which auto insurance premiums will actually increase in proportion to a vehicle’s potential to distract its drivers.

Turning back to the survey, another most interesting finding is that nearly all those asked believe that fully automated driving is coming soon, with most thinking it will happen within 5 to 10 years. I see this as wishful thinking among the “entertainment first” driver contingent. It could happen, though, and at that point auto insurance will become superfluous, since with computers doing the driving will be no mistakes—thus, no accidents. And if there is a glitch with someone’s computers, it should be very interesting to see who gets the blame and who pays the hospital and funeral expenses.

Other than that, it sounds great.

Ara C. Trembly (www.aratremblytechnology.com) is the founder of Ara Trembly, The Tech Consultant, and a longtime observer of technology in insurance and financial services.

Readers are encouraged to respond to Ara using the “Add Your Comments” box below. He can also be reached at ara@aratremblytechnology.com.

This blog was exclusively written for Insurance Networking News. It may not be reposted or reused without permission from Insurance Networking News.

The opinions of bloggers on www.insurancenetworking.com do not necessarily reflect those of Insurance Networking News.

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