New Car Technology: A Help or Hindrance?

By Tim O’Hare

The annual Consumer Electronics Show held in Las Vegas every January is often the highlight of the technology and gadget industry, with releases and demonstrations of the latest and greatest tech gadget. This year’s show featured a company that likely wouldn’t have been present at the event 10 years ago — Ford.

Ford’s CEO, Al Mulally, was at the show this year with the release of new dashboard displays adding to the company’s SYNC and MyFord Touch technology that is manufactured into Ford’s latest models. These new displays allow users to find entertainment information, such as movie times in addition to standard navigation information.

With the numbers of traffic deaths related to distracted driving already at an all-time high, will Internet access in vehicles add to the problem? Car manufacturers would argue the voice control technology and switches in the steering wheel reduce driver distraction.

In a January episode of NPR, Larry Magid, CBS News technology analyst, argues that while drivers have two hands, they only have one brain, and no matter the technology, be it voice controlled, or texting on a cell phone, any activity other than driving itself leads to distracted driving.

Before getting too excited about the newest gadgets, and Internet accessibility, even in your car, stop to consider the repercussions of using such technologies while driving.  What safety precautions have been taken to ensure technology in the car does not increase incidents of death related to distracted driving? Will the technology only operate when the car is in park?

Magid asked that very question of Mulally at CES 2011. His response: “We’ve thought about it and tested it.”

Thought about it — but haven’t actually implemented any safety measures that might reduce the risk of operating a dashboard display while driving.

There are advantages of having such technologies so readily available, such as easier communication with others in the event of an emergency, or the ability to find and contact a tow truck when your car is dead on the side of the road, but drivers must make a conscious effort to focus on driving and not allow the ease of access to online information be a distraction.

The number of deaths due to distracted driving — 16,000 in six years — is far too high. Providing more technologies available to drivers, such as Internet-ready touch screen displays without strict safety measures and guidelines, will only add to the problem.

For more information about the rise of distracted driving deaths, read this recent article.

If you have been seriously injured or lost a family member in an accident caused by distracted driving, contact The Law Offices of Tim O’Hare to speak with a Dallas personal injury attorney.