Internet dashboards take driving distraction to ridiculous levels

With all the focus lately on distracted driving and the ways the dangers can be mitigated, someone forgot to tell Google and Intel.

Lawmakers are feverishly working to craft legislation to ban cell phone usage in vehicles unless it is hands-free. Many states have banned texting while driving. Now, debate is growing over what the real distraction is: the use of the phone, or the outside distraction of a conversation in general.

Everyone seems to be in agreement over texting, though. But as more and more levels of distraction enter vehicles, be they phones, computers, GPS, etc., it’s obvious something needs to change. Now, here come firms like Google and Intel that hope to take distraction to new levels.

Not on purpose, of course, but rather as a new form of revenue for their enormous financial coffers.

According to an article in the New York Times last week, the two companies are leading the way in creating the Internet dashboard. The article says the dashboards would be interactive, showing everything from 3D maps to web pages and even videos.

Peter Rodger, chief examiner at the Institute of Advanced Motorists (IAM), is quick to point out the dangers of this new technology. “If drivers were tempted to use the internet or watch videos on the move, the results could be deadly,” he says. “If it’s not acceptable to read a novel while driving, how can it be acceptable to read a multimedia display? Just how much information can a car driver absorb and still drive responsibly? There is a fine line between providing useful extra information and causing a dangerous distraction. This system appears to cross that line.”

I couldn’t agree more. According to the Times article, Audi is planning on unveiling a similar system this fall. It includes the following message: “Please only use the online services when traffic conditions allow you to do so safely.”

The point is, it’s probably not safe to cruise the Internet while cruising the highway. The reality is, of course, that most Americans never follow directions. You see people all the time talking on their cell phones while driving, even when it is against the law. Why would this one little sentence produce a different result?

To make this really work, the systems should be equipped to only work when the vehicle's engine is either idling or off completely. The technology is there to do this. Whether Google or Intel want to take the chance that people will still want to purchase their product if it can only be used when the vehicle is stopped is another thing. Afterall, we already have that technology, it's called a laptop.