For Those Who Watch TV While Driving

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There’s too much technology in the car — dangerous technology that can kill drivers, pointed out a front-page article in the New York Times today.

Teens have been killed while text messaging. A cab driver was sighted watching a boxing match on a TV mounted on his dashboard. 

Experts say technology is turning the car into a “mobile living room” and that could be dangerous.

But instead of less technology, we are going to get more technology in the car, and ironically much of that new technology will help improve safety. This was one of the themes at the recent International CES and will be the subject of an upcoming story in TWICE. 

First, to address the Times story, in at least 39 states it is illegal to view a TV while driving. We should also know better than to text message while driving, just as we should know better than to read a book while driving, both of which I have done.

So to help us, technology is creating devices that read aloud text messages from your cellphone. This is already available through USTelematics and the popular Ford Sync. Verbal command and control of devices in the car is finally becoming a reality in new products from Pioneer, Garmin, TomTom, Magellan and Mitek as well as the Ford Sync.

Some of these products use what is called “natural speech” so that you can speak to your devices, and tell them to play something by U2, without fumbling with buttons.

The car I sat in at the Delphi booth at CES could tell if there was a car in my blind spot, and, if so, a small icon would appear in my side mirror. It used radar to sense the driving speed of a vehicle up to six car lengths ahead of me and it could slow down my car in response. It also warned me when I started to drift from my lane.

A new product from NavTV turns a car’s in-dash screen into a night-vision screen to see down the road four times beyond the distance illuminated by a headlight.

Cameras mounted around the vehicle, in future aftermarket products, will connect to screens to help you park; backup cameras are already preventing the needless horror of backing into children playing behind an SUV or pick up truck.

So, as usual, technology is a double-edged sword. It tempts our teens to text message while driving, but it also tracks them through car tracking devices to send an alert to a parent if the kid exceeds a certain driving speed.

The ultimate safe car — one that drives itself — was announced at CES by General Motors. Chairman and CEO Rick Wagoner quipped that some day you will be able to read your email, eat your breakfast and apply your makeup while commuting to work, "in other words, you could do everything you do now, but do it safely," through virtually autonomous cars using various electronic sensors. One of these was displayed at CES.

P.S. CEA had a response to the Times article that quoted the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHSTA) as stating that 80 percent of vehicle crashes are caused by driver distraction.

CEA said, ”It is important to note the NHSTA study mentioned in the New York Times article cites cellphone use as far less likely to be the cause of a crash or near-miss than other distractions, like reaching for a falling cup, which increased the risk of a crash or near-crash by nine times. Indeed, the research suggests the most serious threats to traffic and highway safety have little to do with mobile electronics.”


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