Siri Behind the Wheel
Texting-while-driving laws are unclear, inconsistent, and spottily enforced. Here’s how to fix them.
One of the most useful functions of Siri, the new iPhone’s speech-recognition feature, is voice-texting: If you’re too busy—or too atrocious at typing—to enter your message on the screen, you can tell Siri what to say and whom to send it to, and off she’ll go.
Apple advertises Siri as a way to get stuff done while you’re otherwise occupied. In its videos, people use Siri while they’re walking and working out. They also use it while they’re driving, which seems sensible. Everyone knows that texting while driving is dangerous (even if a lot of people do it anyway). What’s more, many of us want to control our in-car gadgets by voice. Slate and the audio company Harman recently co-sponsored a survey of “connected consumers”—tech-savvy American adults who own and drive a car. (You can read the full results in this 1.8-megabyte PDF.) When asked how they’d like to interact with technology in their cars, 70 percent said they preferred speech commands over touchscreens, and 80 percent said they’d pay more to get voice-recognition in their vehicles. These numbers likely reflect a safety calculation: If you’ve got to send a message while you’re behind the wheel, dictating seems less deadly than typing.
But as a report by the McClatchy-Tribune wire service points out, voice-texting could be illegal in many places. During the last five years, 34 states have passed laws that ban texting while driving. The laws in each of those states differ widely—some make it illegal to “send” texts, while others prohibit “electronic communication” as well as “reading” texts. Each of these versions would make Siri-based texting verboten, because even if you dictate a message, you’re still, technically, sending some kind of electronic communication (and if you glance at the screen to make sure Siri correctly transcribed your message, you’re reading it).
Read the full story here: Slate Magazine
- Siri Lost in Translation With Heavy Accents (abcnews.go.com)