Does handsfree speaker phone usage distract drivers less than handheld mobile phone usage? – or is this just another myth?

Discovery Channel’s hit TV show MythBusters takes on popular myths in society and finds out if they are real or not. To follow up on a previous episode a new Dangerous Driving episode premiered Saturday, August 8th. During this episode, the MythBusters team determines whether it is less dangerous to drive while talking on the phone hands free than to drive while talking on a phone that is handheld.

Click here for detailed experiment information and trailer!

The experimental setup, powered by iMotions, integrates human behavior sensors like facial expression analysis and eye tracking with a car simulator in order to measure reactions, reaction times, as well as attention for both of the above-mentioned scenarios.The car simulator events are also integrated with the iMotions API, allowing iMotions to visualize key events in the simulation. This is both on the scenario side, and on the performance side – giving insights into speed, brake, throttle, & more visualized directly in iMotions. This allows for real time synchronization of events and human behavior reactions, and offers easier visualization of correlations. This also enables a more suitable environment for strong analysis & conclusions.

During the experiment, subjects were confronted with five different scenarios, each of them challenging them to react in order to avoid a collision, such as braking hard to avoid hitting an animal that suddenly crosses the street.

The following three videos give a behind-the-scenes look at the brand new episode of MythBusters. Each video shows a respondent exposed to a simulated scenario. In all three of them, you will be able to see the driver’s face as well as his visual field when driving in the simulator. Underneath, parts of simulator and sensor output are shown visualized as blue graphics.

Video 1: In this video the subject is driving on the highway when just before the highway exit a car overtakes and cuts off the subject’s car. Hard brake is needed to avoid collision.


Video 2: Here the subject is driving in the city when suddenly a bicycle crosses the street. The driver must hit the brakes to avoid collision.

Video 3: The subject is again driving in the city when at the intersection a boy suddenly runs across the road even though pedestrians have red light and driver have green light. Driver must brake hard to avoid hitting the boy.

Each video shows the instant response of the driver to the different scenarios. For example, you can see that with every new event the subject reacts quickly, hits the brakes and his pupils dilate. In addition to the technical events from the simulator and eye tracker, you can also see the emotional response of the individual. Look at the surprise shown on their faces!

To conclude the study, the measure of attention with the eye tracker and the car simulator metrics throttle and brake in combination prove that there is no statistical evidence that suggests hands free speaking while driving as less dangerous than handheld.

If you want to know more about the technology behind the experiment, its setup or about biometric sensors in general, please contact the team at iMotions or request a demo.