By Anna Gotfryd and Jacob Vannette
We live in a world with “new age automobiles”—where technological advancements increasingly permeate every aspect of vehicles, from those that affect comfort to those that enhance safety.  No longer are such features found solely in high-end models; they are offered in those purchased by the average consumer. To some, cutting-edge technology in vehicles is seen as a necessity: recent studies show that “connectivity”—such as dashboard features that provide owners with email access—is now a part of consumer expectations. From 2014 to 2015, 37% of consumers said that they would be willing to switch car brands simply to achieve improved connectivity. The push for connectivity while driving is not surprising. Last year, American commuters spent an average of 42 hours stuck in traffic. While other reports note that up to 20% of drivers have not used many of the technology features in their vehicles, consumers continue to desire automotive technologies “that enhance the driving experience and safety.” This means that more advancements in car technology, not fewer, are to be expected.
Many technologies that consumers most desire are “built-in,” and serve a range of purposes. Some are created with an eye toward luxury enjoyment of the vehicle, and even with a nod toward creativity or pure fun. Other advancements are aimed at practicality and cost efficiency. Finally, technological developments that are designed to improve safety are wide-ranging.” Consider “Forward Emergency Braking”—a technology that will sense and stop for pedestrians located in front of a car. Some car manufacturers have created “camera and sensor systems” that warn drivers when cars are “in the[ir] mirror’s blind spot.” Autoliv, for example, has developed a technology for thermal imaging of the area surrounding a vehicle. This system, like its military forebears, allows drivers to see further than their headlights to avoid tragic collisions with pedestrians or wildlife, which they may not otherwise be able to detect.
This article discusses one type of technological advancement purportedly directed at improving safety—integrated hands-free texting. Perhaps unsurprisingly, integrated hands-free technology elicits tricky issues, explored below. First, we investigate the problems associated with texting while driving, and how legislators and car manufacturers have responded. Second, we discuss what integrated hands-free technology is and how it works. Third, we examine whether it has any impact on safe driving. Finally, we analyze how legislators have viewed hands-free texting, and how future considerations could affect this area.
The Pervasive Problem of Distracted Driving and Proposed Solutions
Texting and driving, one of the main causes of what is referred to as “distracted driving,” has been labeled an “American epidemic.” As many as 98% of drivers believe that “[t]exting while driving is dangerous.” Most, however, do not practice what they preach:” 74% of drivers admit to having texted while driving. This has resulted in tragic outcomes: every day, distracted driving kills more than 8 people and injures about 1,161. Some studies go so far as to suggest that distracted driving is worse than drunk driving. The American public has reacted—in 2009, 80% of American adults favored banning texting while driving”—and legislators have responded. “46 states, D.C., Puerto Rico, Guam and the U.S. Virgin Islands ban text messaging for all drivers,” and “[o]f the 4 states without an all driver texting ban[,] 2 prohibit text messaging by novice drivers[, and] 1 restricts school bus drivers from texting.””
With consumers demanding greater connectivity in vehicles, and the concurrent public and legislative outcry to the distracted driving craze, car manufacturers are “racing to make driving less distracting.” One way they have done this is by offering integrated hands-free technology, which allows drivers to stay connected without taking their eyes off of the road or their hands off of the wheel. We turn now to a discussion of how automotive companies have sought to meet this demand, and how exactly integrated hands-free technology works.
Integrated Hands-Free Technology Explained
This part explains what integrated hands-free technology in cars is. It then discusses different types of hands-free technology systems that consumers may encounter and how the average consumer uses them.
Generally, integrated hands-free technology is a system that is installed directly into a car. It works by connecting with a driver’s phone using Bluetooth. It can then tell whether the driver has an incoming call or message. Through integrated hands-free technology, the driver could choose to answer a phone call or listen to a message. Additionally, through the use of speech recognition technology, the driver could dictate a reply or choose another course of action. The specifics of these types of systems, of course, may vary by car make and model. We examine briefly the systems produced by some of the largest car manufacturers in the world.
“SYNC” is Ford’s version of integrated hands-free technology. By connecting her phone with the car’s infotainment system via Bluetooth, a driver can use the software’s voice recognition system to make calls, dictate text messages, and search for music on her phone. The software is compatible with both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, allowing a driver to engage Siri or Google to make calls, send messages, navigate, and much more—all without reaching for her phone.
Chevrolet’s “MyLink” similarly allows drivers to connect their phones to their car’s infotainment system through Bluetooth. Hands-free calling is available in multiple models, allowing a driver to simply press a button on the steering wheel and state aloud the callee’s name. Text Message Alerts notify a driver when he or she has received a new message, too. Through this feature, a driver can listen to the message, view it when her car is stopped, and reply to it with stock messages.
As a final example, “NissanConnect” also employs Bluetooth to link the driver’s phone to the car’s infotainment system, “keep[ing] [the driver] in touch while [she] stays focused on the road.” Nissan likewise uses voice recognition technology, through which drivers can “make and answer calls and send pre-loaded text messages—hands free.” Drivers may input into the system custom messages, increasing the finite list of stock messages at their disposal while driving. Through the driver’s phone, the system can also access social media networks, including popular sites like Facebook and Twitter, and read aloud posts from those platforms.
Nearly all of the major players in the automotive industry have developed a way for drivers to access and utilize their phones without actually touching them—by calling, texting, and even keeping up with Facebook posts. The question remains whether integrated hands-free technology actually makes driving safer. We survey current research in the next part.
Hands-Free Texting and Driving As a Safer Alternative
Integrated hands-free technology is still relatively new, and more research on its safety implications may be warranted. Current studies have found that texting hands-free is just as unsafe as doing so hands-on. Some studies even show that the use of hands-free technology is more distracting than hands-on use.
According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, there are three types of distraction that concern a driver: (1) visual distraction, which involves what a driver can see; (2) manual distraction, which is implicated when a driver takes her hands off of the wheel; and (3) cognitive distraction, which occurs when a driver is not completely focused on the task of driving.
A driver that is looking at the road while on the phone may “fail to see up to 50 percent of the information in their driving environment” due to cognitive distraction. A study conducted by the American Automobile Association’s Foundation for Traffic Safety investigated the use of hands-free technology while driving and determined “that potentially unsafe levels of mental distraction can last for as long as 27 seconds after completing a distracting task.” A different study, conducted by the Texas A&M Transportation Institute, compared the effects of both methods of texting—manually and hands-free—on driving. The researchers concluded that there was no significant difference between the two methods: “Driver response times were significantly delayed no matter which texting method was used.” The study also determined that drivers spent less time with their eyes on the road regardless of the method through which they composed text messages.
Critics emphasize that this investigation focuses only on cognitive distraction, which is believed to be less dangerous than manual and visual distraction. Nonetheless, an amplified cognitive load increases the risk of a crash due to slower reaction times and inattention blindness. Additionally, research conducted by the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute found that the use of hands-free devices “involved visual-manual tasks at least half of the time.” Significantly, no research has been able to show that integrated hands-free devices improve safety.
When the safety benefits of integrated hands-free technology were completely unknown, experts believed that it “w[ould] become standard within a few years.” This prediction held true—hands-free communication technology has become “a central competitive focus of the automotive industry”—despite a lack of demonstrated safety benefits. Meanwhile, researchers have accumulated considerable evidence indicating that this technology poses significant risks. The next section examines the cognitive dissonance between the existing research on hands-free texting and the law’s treatment of it.
A Mismatch Between Research and How Laws Treat Hands-Free Technology
All over the country, state legislators have noticed the distracted driving epidemic and have racked their brains to find ways that they believe will address the issue. As discussed above, the vast majority of states have banned texting while driving. Fourteen states have gone even further, banning any use of hand-held devices for all drivers. The problem, however, lies in the fact that none of these laws address the concern with hands-free devices, seeming to incorrectly presume that they are a safer alternative. California, for example, explicitly condoned the use of hands-free devices for texting less than a year after issuing a text messaging ban. While there have been calls for states to issue bans on the use of hands-free devices, no state has actually done so.
The lack of a legislative response to research demonstrating the dangers of hands-free texting does not, however, mean that states are not seeking novel ways to continue the fight against distracted driving and its dire consequences. New York legislators, for example, recently introduced a bill (“Evan’s Law”) that arms police officers with a field testing device called a “textalyzer.” A textalyzer, which is still in development, could check a driver’s phone for recent, unlawful activity.
Setting aside privacy concerns, Evan’s Law and the use of a textalyzer raise additional important, yet unanswered, questions. Among those is whether the device will have the ability to distinguish between a message sent manually and one sent using hands-free technology. Hands-free devices are specifically exempted from New York’s texting ban; using them is not a violation of the law. Some doubt that the textalyzer will be able to differentiate whether a message was sent hands-on or hands-free. This may complicate the solution by adding, rather than subtracting, steps. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration desires a technological solution to the distracted driving problem. The textalyzer, however, diverges from their vision—one including a device or a vehicle feature that recognizes when a driver is using a phone and deactivates it —and adds procedural requirements.
New York is currently the only state to consider using a device like the textalyzer to combat the distracted driving problem. If Evan’s Law passes, however, other states may join New York’s lead. Using technology to combat technology without explicitly considering the new age of automobile advancements and current research assessing their efficacy may prove to further complicate an already difficult area.
Suggestions and Conclusion
Technological advancements in cars are rapid and largely a result of consumer desires. As car manufacturers and legislators work to find solutions to the distracted driving epidemic, the latter must take a hard look at the adequacy of current measures, while the former should consider its competitive emphasis on integrated hands-free technology. Importantly, researchers and legislators will need to stop talking past one another, and start comparing notes.
 See, e.g., Brian Cooley, Tech Watch: Top 5 Inexpensive High-Tech Cars, CBS SFBayArea (Oct. 2, 2012, 8:58 AM), http://sanfrancisco.cbslocal.com/2012/10/02/tech-watch-top-5-inexpensive-high-tech-cars/; Doug DeMuro, 7 Great High-Tech Cars Under $35,000, AUTOTRADER (Aug. 2014), http://www.autotrader.com/best-cars/7-great-high-tech-cars-under-35000-229215.
 Hans-Werner Kaas, Andreas Tschiesner, Dominik Wee & Matthias Kässer, How Carmakers Can Compete for the Connected Consumer, MCKINSEY & COMPANY (Sept. 2015), http://www.mckinsey.com/industries/automotive-and-assembly/our-insights/how-carmakers-can-compete-for-the-connected-consumer.
 Reuters, U.S. Commuters Spend About 42 Hours a Year Stuck in Traffic Jams, NEWSWEEK (Aug. 26, 2015, 12:31 PM), http://www.newsweek.com/us-commuters-spend-about-42-hours-year-stuck-traffic-jams-365970; see also Ashley Halsey III, Automakers Embrace Hands-Free Text-Messaging Technology, WASH. POST (Oct. 24, 2011), https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/automakers-embrace-hands-free-text-messaging-technology/2011/10/19/gIQAg0fjDM_story.html (“The demand for all this comes, in part, because the amount of time Americans spend stuck in traffic has more than doubled since 1982 . . . .”); The Editorial Board, Editorial, Hands-Free Distractions, N.Y. TIMES (June 23, 2013), http://www.nytimes.com/2013/06/24/opinion/hands-free-distractions.html (“A spokeswoman for the auto industry told The Times that ‘people want to be connected in their car just as they are in their home or wherever they may be.’”).
 Built-in Connectivity Among Least Used Technologies, Creating Lost Value, J.D. POWER (Aug. 25, 2015), http://www.jdpower.com/press-releases/2015-driver-interactive-vehicle-experience-drive-report (“[A]ccording to the J.D. Power 2015 Driver Interactive Vehicle Experience (DrIVE) Report,” which “measures driver experiences with in-vehicle technology features during the first 90 days of ownership . . . at least 20 percent of new-vehicle owners have never used 16 of the 33 technology features measured.”).
 Paul Murrell, The Technology People Want in Their Cars, and What They Don’t . . ., PRACTICAL MOTORING, https://practicalmotoring.com.au/car-news/what-car-tech-people-want-and-what-they-dont/ (last visited June 7, 2016).
 John Brandon, 10 Major Tech Advancements in Cars for 2016, COMPUTERWORLD (Jan. 12, 2016, 10:38 AM), http://www.computerworld.com/article/3021856/personal-technology/10-major-tech-advancements-in-cars-for-2016.html.
 Id. Back-up cameras in cars, for example, are a practical advancement that will be mandated by law in any new car produced or sold in the United States after 2018. Wayne Cunningham, U.S. Requiring Back-Up Cameras in Cars by 2018, ROADSHOW BY CNET (Mar. 31, 2014, 11:04 AM), http://www.cnet.com/roadshow/news/u-s-requiring-back-up-cameras-in-cars-by-2018/ (“The rule applies to all road-legal vehicles under 10,000 pounds” and “requires a back-up camera to show a field of vision at least 10 feet wide directly behind the vehicle, going back a minimum of 20 feet.”).
 Rick Newman, Forget Self-Driving Cars—This Technology Is Way Cooler, YAHOO FINANCE (Apr. 22, 2016, 1:42 PM), http://finance.yahoo.com/news/forget-self-driving-cars-night-vision-technology-is-cooler-162552501.html.
 Dr. Nina Radcliff, Distracted Driving Is an American Epidemic, WASH. TIMES (Apr. 26, 2015), http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2015/apr/26/nina-radcliff-distracted-driving-american-epidemic/?page=all.
 CTR. FOR INTERNET & TECH. ADDICTION, IT CAN WAIT COMPULSION SURVEY 3, http://about.att.com/content/dam/snrdocs/It%20Can%20Wait%20Compulsion%20Survey%20Key%20Findings_9%207%2014.pdf (last visited June 7, 2016) (using a national telephone survey consisting of 1,004 respondents who meet the following criteria: are between 16-65, own a cell phone, text at least once a day, and drive, at a minimum, almost every day).
 Jayne O’Donnell, Some Cars Will Read Texts and E-mails or Take Dictation, USA TODAY (Mar. 28, 2013, 12:06 AM), http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2013/03/27/some-cars-will-read-texts-and-emails-or-take-dictation/2026823/.
 See, e.g., Tara Baukus Mello, Rating Hands-Free Calling in Today’s Cars, BANKRATE, http://www.bankrate.com/finance/auto/rating-hands-free-calling-in-todays-cars-1.aspx (last visited June 7, 2016).
 Of the 10 largest car manufactures in the world, General Motors is #2, Nissan-Renault #3, and Ford Motor Company #6. See John LeBlanc, The Top 10 Largest Automakers in the World, DRIVING (Apr. 25, 2014), http://driving.ca/toyota/corolla/auto-news/news/the-top-10-largest-automakers-in-the-world.
 Ford SYNC Technology, supra note 32 (discussing “SYNC 3 plus Apple CarPlay Support,” which lets owners “use [their] voice to make a call, listen to music, voice-control, select apps with SYNC AppLink and much more,” while “keep[ing] [their] eyes on the road and [their] hands on the wheel”).
 See In-Vehicle Infotainment (IVI), WEBOPEDIA, http://www.webopedia.com/TERM/I/in-vehicle-infotainment-ivi.html (last visited June 7, 2016) (“[T]ypical tasks that can be performed with an in-vehicle infotainment system include managing and playing audio content, utilizing navigation for driving, delivering rear-seat entertainment such as movies, games, social networking, etc., listening to incoming and sending outgoing SMS text messages, making phone calls, and accessing Internet-enabled or smartphone-enabled content such as traffic conditions, sports scores and weather forecasts.”).
 See supra notes 37–49. Buick, Toyota, Volkswagen, Chrysler, Hyundai, and Mazda all have similar systems. See also New Hands-Free Technologies Pose Hidden Dangers for Drivers, AAA NEWSROOM (Oct. 22, 2015) [hereinafter Hidden Dangers], http://newsroom.aaa.com/2015/10/new-hands-free-technologies-pose-hidden-dangers-for-drivers/.
 Peter Bigelow, Feds Recommend Ban of Hands-Free Phone Use to Curb Epidemic of Distracted Driving, AUTOBLOG (Mar. 28, 2012, 10:49 AM), http://www.autoblog.com/2012/03/28/feds-recommend-ban-of-hands-free-phone-use-to-curb-epidemic-of-d/ (“[Department of Transportation Secretary Ray] Lahood has said the issue with hands-free devices needs more research.”).
 David Pogue, Hands-Free Texting Is No Safer to Use While Driving, SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN (Nov. 1, 2013), http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/hands-free-texting-is-no-safer-to-use-while-driving/ (discussing a study conducted by the Texas A&M Transportation Institute that examined “people driving a closed course under three conditions: while texting by hand, while texting by voice . . ., and without texting at all,” and finding that there is “no difference whether [one] text[s] hands-free or by voice”). Notably, this study only used 43 subjects. Id.
 Hands-Free Is Not Risk-Free, Nat’l Safety Council, http://www.nsc.org/learn/NSC-Initiatives/Pages/distracted-driving-hands-free-is-not-risk-free-infographic.aspx (last visited June 7, 2016) (discussing a study conducted by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety).
 NAT’L SAFETY COUNCIL, UNDERSTANDING THE DISTRACTED BRAIN: WHY DRIVING WHILE USING HANDS-FREE CELL PHONES IS RISKY BEHAVIOR 2 (2012), http://www.nsc.org/DistractedDrivingDocuments/Cognitive-Distraction-White-Paper.pdf.
 Hidden Dangers, supra note 52 (summarizing a study in which 257 drivers between the ages of 21 and 70 tested 2015 model-year vehicles, and 65 other drivers between the ages of 21 and 68 “tested the three phone systems”). The study represented a third phase of the Foundation’s investigation into the effects of hands-free technology use in vehicles on a driver’s cognitive distraction. Id.
 The Texas A&M Transportation Institute (TTI) is “one of the premier higher education-affiliated transportation research agencies in the nation,” which “conducts over 600 research projects annually with over 200 sponsors at all levels of government and the private sector.” About TTI, Tex. A&M Transp. Inst., http://tti.tamu.edu/about/ (last visited June 7, 2016). This particular study was sponsored by the Southwest Region University Transportation Center. Voice-to-Text Driver Distraction Study, Tex. A&M Transp. Inst. [hereinafter Distraction Study], https://tti.tamu.edu/enhanced-project/voice-to-text-driver-distraction-study/ (last visited June 7, 2016).
 Distraction Study, supra note 59 (summarizing a study in which 43 drivers first drove through a closed course without using any cell phones, then did so “three more times performing a series of texting exercises—once using each of two voice-to-text applications (Siri® for the iPhone and Vlingo® for Android), and once texting manually”).
 See, e.g., Mitch Bainwol, Letter to the Editor, Using Hands-Free Devices to Chat and Drive, N.Y. Times (July 4, 2013), http://www.nytimes.com/2013/07/05/opinion/using-hands-free-devices-to-chat-and-drive.html.
 See RICHARD HARKNESS, SUMMARY OF RESEARCH FINDINGS INDICATE SIGNIFICANT CRASH RISKS ASSOCIATED WITH HANDS-FREE TEXTING WHILE DRIVING 1 (2013), https://www.adeptdriver.com/assets/resources/Hands_free_texting_while_driving_poses_great_crash_risk_4-25-13.pdf.
 The Virginia Tech Transportation Institute (VTTI) is “the second largest university-level transportation institute in the U.S. with more than 475 employees.” About VTTI, VA. TECH TRANSP. INST., www.vtti.vt.edu/about/about-vtti.html (last visited June 7, 2016). The institute “has more than $36 million in annual sponsored program research expenditures and is conducting more than 270 active projects.” Id. The study in question was sponsored by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. New VTTI Study Results Continue to Highlight the Dangers of Distracted Driving,VA. TECH TRANSP. INST. (May 29, 2013) [hereinafter VTTI Study], http://www.vtti.vt.edu/featured/?p=193.
 VTTI Study, supra note 65 (summarizing a study in which cameras and other equipment were used to observe participants in their personal vehicles for a combined total of six million miles driven).
 Jenny Che, How Car Companies Are Combatting Texting While Driving, Huffpost Business (June 9, 2015, 6:14 PM), http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/how-car-companies-are-combatting-texting-while-driving_us_55771263e4b0317a2afd3fdc.
 Robert Rosenberger, The False Sense of Safety Created by Hands-Free Devices in Cars, Slate (March 5, 2012, 3:15 PM), www.slate.com/blogs/future_tense/2012/03/05/hands_free_devices_don_t_make_it_safe_to_talk_text_and_drive_.html.
 Id. Those states are California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Vermont, Washington, and West Virginia. Id. The District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, Guam, and the Virgin Islands also ban hand-held devices while driving. Id.
 Dante D’Orazio, California Passes Bill Legalizing Voice-Activated Hands-Free Texting While Driving, THE VERGE (July 17, 2012, 9:06 PM), http://www.theverge.com/2012/7/17/3165461/california-legalizes-voice-activated-hands-free-texting.
 David Kravets, First Came the Breathalyzer, Now Meet the Roadside Police “Textalyzer”, arstechnica (Apr. 11, 2016, 3:00 PM), http://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/2016/04/first-came-the-breathalyzer-now-meet-the-roadside-police-textalyzer/.
 See, e.g., Bryan Chaffin, On Being Skeptical of ‘Textalyzer’ Technology to Detect Smartphone Use Before Accidents, MAC OBSERVER (Apr. 12, 2016, 8:25 PM), http://www.macobserver.com/tmo/article/on-being-skeptical-of-textalyzer-technology-to-detect-smartphone-use-before.