Thursday, January 07, 2010

Count Me As a Dismayed Safety Advocate

Honestly, people! Have we taken leave of our senses? It's bad enough that only 90+ percent of people think texting while driving is a bad idea. Do you really feel safe on the roads at 50, 60, or 75 MPH knowing that every tenth car you encounter has a driver who feels that texting while driving is a good idea?

Apparently, that activity doesn't provide ample entertainment and distraction, so next up to the plate is full-frontal internet access.
To the dismay of safety advocates already worried about driver distraction, automakers and high-tech companies have found a new place to put sophisticated Internet-connected computers: the front seat.

Technology giants like Intel and Google are turning their attention from the desktop to the dashboard, hoping to bring the power of the PC to the car. They see vast opportunity for profit in working with automakers to create the next generation of irresistible devices.

This week at the Consumer Electronics Show, the neon-drenched annual trade show here, these companies are demonstrating the breadth of their ambitions, like 10-inch screens above the gearshift showing high-definition videos, 3-D maps and Web pages.

I have no problem with internet access in cars. Hell, I'd love to have it just to listen to Austin radio while I'm in southeast Arkansas, or 93XRT Chicago, or the great jazz station in Long Beach. But it doesn't belong in front of the driver! Hell, why not just pop a 25-inch HD monitor on the dash! Sure beats having to look at the boring world around you.

Not once have I ever been driving and wished I could be reading Pam's House Blend or Crooks and Liars while cruising down the Interstate at 85 MPH. I've got other things on my mind like deer crossing the road. And cops needing to meet a revenue quota. And people reading web pages instead of driving! I know I'm stretching things a bit for humor.
They prevent drivers from watching video and using some other functions while the car is moving, but they can still pull up content as varied as restaurant reviews and the covers of music albums with the tap of a finger.

OK, not once have I ever been driving and wished I could read a restaurant review and catch a glance of Sticky Fingers.

In the list of bad ideas, this has got to be near the top. Fine if used responsibly. I remember when cars started getting outfitted with those head rests and some people surely thought they were meant to be used as a head rest, literally. How convenient! On a long 600 mile trip, I can put on the cruise control and catch a quick nap. What will they think of next?

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