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The Facebook Car – a New Era in Distracted Driving?

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If you watched the Super Bowl last Sunday, you probably saw the ad for the new Chevy Cruze. It was memorable because it debuted Facebook integration. Take 30 seconds to refresh your memory:

While I applaud the introduction of hands-free tech in the driver’s seat, I have to wonder if this is taking it too far. The ability to check in on Facebook statuses while behind the wheel seems to reek of potential for distracted driving, which we know is a major cause of accidents. While decades of radio have made us all quite used to audio in the car, this sort of interface may very well absorb more attention from the driver.

Darren Murph, associate editor for EnGadget, seems to agree (emphasis mine):

An early Super Bowl ad peek has revealed that the aforesaid automobile has the ability to read back statuses on command, giving you one less reason to keep your mind on the task at hand (read: driving) and one more reason to make The Zuck even richer.

“The Zuck” Murphy refers to is Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, who is constantly seeking ways to broaden Facebook’s user base, and make the social network even more accessible.

There is no doubt that cell phones/smartphones have become one of the most severe and widespread driving distractions. On a recent list of top driving distractions, Accidents.com’s top four offenders were all tied to mobile gadget use. Chevy is leaning in the right direction with this new audio interface (depending on what the final product actually ends up looking like), but I have to wonder if this will reduce the chance of accidents or simply obscure the cause of any related accidents.

FacebookUnlike radio, Facebook and mobile phones are interactive by nature. This requires more attention on the driver’s part. Having the car read your newsfeed will probably reduce the attention drain of looking down at your smartphone, but I’m curious as to how substantial the difference will be. Sure, you’re not looking down, but your attention is still fragmented. And what happens if the voice commands are inconsistent? If the system pulls up the wrong information, that could lead to frustration behind the wheel, and yet another type of distracted driving.

Until Chevy releases more details we can only speculate. What are your thoughts on this new technology?

Image by Ilgi’s TV Network, used under its Creative Commons license.

 

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