Auto safety officials in Great Britain are calling for a ban of Mercedes-Benz’s new Facebook feature displayed recently at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas. The feature, to be introduced this spring in SL class models and as a standard feature on most Mercedes year 2013 models, is a gadget that will allow drivers to update their Facebook status while driving. Mercedes-Benz says the update is merely of a car’s location, and does not involve typing anything, but rather pressing a button.
Metro.co.uk writes that Mercedes-Benz believes the mbrace2 system will increase safety by providing such benefits as emergency roadside assistance and crisis assistance, as well as stolen-vehicle tracking.
And Rob Waugh reports in MailOnline:
‘It is no more distracting than tuning your radio. You just press a button and it’ll update your friends,’ said a spokesperson.
The mbrace2 system was introduced by Mercedes chief executive Steve Cannon who heralded the age of ‘a truly networked vehicle that is always online.’
But Road Safety GB — the professional body of British road safety officers — and the Parliamentary Advisory Council for Transport Safety said it will encourage drivers to avert their eyes from the road ahead and called for its introduction to be halted.
“Mercedes-Benz Apps,” the in-car Internet system, was introduced at CES last month and features a dashboard screen capable of open browsing, with a 3G mobile phone connection displaying such websites as Facebook, Google Street View, Yelp, and Google Local Search. There are also pre-programmed sites that will show stock prices and news headlines. Waugh reports that drivers can use most of the functions only when parked, but will be able to update their location to Facebook while driving, perhaps to provide their estimated arrival time for a lunch date or business meeting.
According to RushLane’s Nabanita Roy, Road Safety GB Chairman Alan Kennedy said:
‘It is inconceivable that a major manufacturer such as Mercedes would even contemplate allowing such a system to be fitted to their vehicles. The biggest and most obvious worry is, of course, distraction. No matter how driver friendly the system is, I fear we will see an increase in the number of Mercedes cars wrapped around trees, pedestrians and cyclists. This is something the road safety profession must resist.’
And Waugh quotes Robert Gifford, executive director of PACTS, as saying the system is a potential distraction: “Mercedes should prove that it will not distract drivers before they think about introducing it. Mercedes could find itself in a court if one of their cars in involved in a crash and it turns out that the driver was using the Facebook function at the time.”
According to RushLane, one spokesman said, “It is no more distracting than tuning your radio.” Mercedes U.K. spokesman Rob Halloway said the system is fully tested and compliant with Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers safety guidelines. “Mercedes-Benz is absolutely committed to safety. It is our number one priority,” he said.
You can see a video about mbrace2 and the new Facebook app here.
Image by Mercedes-Benz, used under Fair Use: Reporting.