Automakers are feverishly adding all sorts of tech gadgetry to their latest models. The most recent announcement is courtesy Ford Motor Co., which this week at CES rolled out a series of new features for its Sync technology, including a new dashboard design that brings Wi-Fi and Web apps, including social networking sites like Twitter, to some new Ford models beginning in 2012.
But wait, there’s more. Drivers will be able to check movie times, get free maps, and listen to Internet radio using either voice commands or a color touchscreen.
Driving? Yes, you’ll still have to do that too.
Call me a Luddite, but the auto industry’s plan to turn motor vehicles into rolling, Web-connected laptops sounds a little dangerous. The new MyFord Touch interface will tempt drivers with a lot of fun-yet-dangerous distractions that might prevent them from focusing on the road.
Of course, everybody knows that responsible drivers don’t be checking Twitter updates while cruising the highway. But there are a lot of stupid, irresponsible drivers out there.
Don’t believe me? Next time you’re on the road, sneak a peek at your fellow drivers and see how many of them are texting while driving, despite the obvious risks. According to a recent University of Utah study, texting while driving is six times more dangerous than chatting on a phone while driving.
I’m not saying that Ford has done a bad job with Sync, which in addition to all the cool and marketable Web-enabled tools, also lets drivers monitor the car’s performance. And the voice-command option is certainly a lot safer than navigating a touchscreen.
Will the new Web-connected vehicles lead to more road accidents? We won’t know for a few years, probably, but my gut instinct says they will. One solution may be to pass legislation that limits what drivers can and can’t do in their cars. Example: Passengers can surf the Web, but drivers can’t.
Is this enforceable? Probably not.
Tech should make driving safer, not more dangerous. The last thing we need is another set of distractions for drivers. Twitter can wait.
Contact Jeff Bertolucci via Twitter (@jbertolucci) or at jbertolucci.blogspot.com.