Bluetooth gives people the ability to wirelessly connect two devices and allows them to interact with each other (Newcomb, 2011). In the case of car bluetooth – a phone is able to link to a car and allows the driver to access his/her address book, GPS history, music, and in some vehicles, search the internet, just by making commands with their voice. Almost every new car allows drivers the ability to connect to the car using a “Hands-free” link (Newcomb, 2011). It is believed that car bluetooth capabilities will improve road safety and decrease driver distractions, but this is not always the case.
In order to test the user experience for car bluetooth capabilities – I chose to conduct a survey. Qualtrics was also the best survey option because it could convert the data into charts and provide certain statistical numbers. When designing my survey, I considered variables such as ease of use, safety concerns, and privacy concerns. I used several questions from the System Usability Scale (SUS). The System Usability Scale is composed of 10 questions that ask respondents about how usable, easy, and quickly they were able to learn that specific technology (“System Usability Scale,” n.d.). I inquired about how often they experienced difficulties with their bluetooth and to rate their level of distraction when they connected via car bluetooth. I also included several questions about respondents’ knowledge of the security risks of pairing a phone to a car, especially a rental car. Finally, I concluded my survey with two open-ended questions that allowed respondents to freely write about any other difficulties they have experienced with car bluetooth and any suggestions they may have for improvements.
When asked about their thoughts on requiring car bluetooth be shut off when traveling at a dangerous speed, surprisingly, 58% of respondents said no to making it mandatory. I think respondents answered in this manner because all drivers think they are being safe until they end up in an accident. People will try to justify talking on the phone via bluetooth or dictating a text message to send via bluetooth by saying it is “Hands-Free” but as Peter Kissinger, the President and CEO of the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety said, “Hands-Free is not risk-free.” The AAA found that the reaction times of “167 drivers using voice-activated systems to make phone calls or change the radio station” (LeBeau, 2014) were slower and their level of distraction had increased compared to drivers who did not use this type of technology.
Many respondents, myself included, believe that there should be some form of mandatory bluetooth lock when drivers reach a certain speed or a Do Not Disturb function anytime someone is driving. Although there were some doubts from respondents, I think it could be extremely beneficial especially for young, new drivers. Many people my age use their phone while driving, and it baffles my mind how they have become so attached to their phones they cannot resist the temptation of it for short drives. I think this attachment to our mobile devices is a result of technological advancements and growing up learning to rely on technology in every aspect of our lives. The entertainment company Whistle conducted a study and found that “Gen Z relies heavily on smartphones to support a constant need for entertainment, perhaps to a degree that’s uncommon even among similarly mobile-minded age groups like millennials” (Williams, 2019). In other words, members of Gen Z are more dependent on their mobile devices than other generational groups. In addition, I think that social factors such as FOMO causes drivers to be unable to put their phones down while driving. The question that still remains is whether car bluetooth is the safest technology to use while driving? It is evident that alterations must be made in order to keep users safe by preventing distraction and to preserve the privacy of their personal information.