One of the first things you learn in driving class is to keep your eyes on the road and your hands on the wheel. That is easier said then done these days, with increasingly functional mapping apps and digital displays getting in the way. To help with that, Google Assistant is heading to the Waze navigation app, Google announced on Monday.
Google acquired Waze back in 2013 for $1.3 billion, and it continues to operate independently of Google Maps. Over the years, however, Google has ported several of Waze's features over to its own home-brewed maps app. On occasion, some of the features in Google Maps have also found their way over to Waze.
The latter is the case here, at least technically—Google Assistant arrived in Google Maps earlier this year, and is now sitting shotgun in Waze, albeit only for Android at the moment, and only in the US.
"Thanks to its community of millions of drivers contributing real-time data every second, Waze helps you beat traffic, while the Assistant lets you to play music and podcasts, message your friends and call your family hands-free—without ever leaving the navigation screen," Google explains.
Google Assistant can also help with many of Waze's features, such as reporting traffic, pinpointing a pothole, or checking for alternate routes. For example, a Waze user can say, "Hey Google, report traffic" or "Hey Google, avoid tolls," and Google Assistant will dutifully follow through, allowing the driver to keep his or her hands on the wheel.
"Voice commands in the car help minimize distractions so you can focus on the road. We look forward to continue making your driving experience even better with help from the Google Assistant," Google says.
That may or may not be the case. In 2015, AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety published research that stating that motorists can remain distracted for nearly half a minute after using voice commands.
"The lasting effects of mental distraction pose a hidden and pervasive danger that would likely come as a surprise to most drivers," said Peter Kissinger, President and CEO of the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety. "The results indicate that motorists could miss stop signs, pedestrians and other vehicles while the mind is readjusting to the task of driving."
That is not the only research of its kind. A separate study conducted by the Texas A&M Transportation Institute compared voice-to-text and manual texting in real-world driving environments and found that drivers took about twice as long to react to roadway hazards no matter which method of texting they used, versus no texting at all.
Something to keep in mind when using technology while behind the wheel.