Car manufacturers may think that enhancing cars with a virtual instructor voice feature guarantees safer driving. However, a new study by the Michigan State University, Eindhoven University of Technology, and Stanford University found that adding cars with a personal voice as guide actually resulted in more car accidents.

Those drivers who have strong interactions with voice-guided vehicles were more prone to accidents. The more resemblance the car’s virtual voice has to the human driver, the more chances it puts the driver’s safety at risk because it is “distracting to the driver and thus hinders safe driving.”

The researchers created a car simulator with a steering wheel, Oculus Rift, and pedals. This came with five virtual driving instructors which the recruited participants needed to rate based on its likeness to their identity as well as its friendliness, intelligence and overall human likeness.


Driving cars with a personal voice guide leads to more car accidents. Credit: Pixabay/tookapic

The researchers found that the voice of the virtual instructor influenced the driving experience and overall driver safety. The virtual instructor that the participants felt were closer to their own identity or to which the participants felt the most social connection made the participants crash more. The findings support the results from earlier studies which have shown the consequences of virtual voices on driving.

Other studies have also shown that technologies that need human interaction such as avatars can also influence people. However, the researchers do not want to stop manufacturing autonomous and quasi-autonomous cars. They also assert that improvements in the technology are needed to promote driver safety.

“Research on these modes of communication may yield new theoretical insights about human-computer interaction in general,” said Michigan State University’s Rabindra Ratan. “This research suggests that the development of autonomous and quasi-autonomous cars should consider the ways in which the voices integrated into these technologies influence the driver and thus safety on the road.”

The study will be presented at the 66th Annual Conference of the International Communication Association this coming June in Fukuoka, Japan.