Posted by: goalpath | January 29, 2010

Driving with Social Media

At the Consumer Electronics show in Las Vegas last week, Ford Motor Company unveiled dashboard innovations that included being able to use Twitter and Facebook from behind the wheel. Streaming internet audio from behind the wheel is one thing, but social media? Presented as Ford’s connectivity strategy, it appears that other auto makers will soon follow suit. Can you say distracted driving?

I have had a love affair with cars since the nineteen fifties. I secretly aspired to be a race car driver. Although, over the past thirty plus years, my racing has been confined to some motocross racing, a couple of years of road racing really fast go karts, and about five years of autocross. The pinnacle of my driving experience occurred when I attended to Jim Russell’s race driving school at Infineon Raceway in Sonoma California. We were fitted, literally, into open wheel formula fords and got three days of intensive training on the finer points of open wheel road racing. Too much fun for sure.

I have owned numerous sports cars including an Alfa Romeo Sprint Veloce, an MG-A, a Sunbeam Alpine, an Austin Healy 3000, a Porsche 911, two RX 7’s and several turbo charged Mazdas. My first car was a 56 Chevy with a small block V8. I love to drive and I love road trips.

My first road trip with a cell phone took place back in the early nineties. The phone was huge and didn’t work all that well. The one thing I remember about using that phone was a conference call I was able to take part in while sitting in the parking lot at Buffalo Bill’s Grave just outside of Denver. Talk about an office with a view!

Our cars are our second home. According to the National Highway Safety  Administration, on any day of the week, 800,000 people drive and use their cell phones. In a recently released Pew report, one in three teenagers admitted to texting while driving.  In 2008, 6,000 highway deaths were the result of distracted driving – a great many of which involved cell phone usage.

In the near future we will be able to access social media from inside our cars. I’m sorry, but how smart is this strategy? Given the statistics and the growing use of cell phones in automobiles, do we really want to continue down this road? I understand that some people can’t seem to function without talking incessantly, but texting and twittering? Even if you could accomplish interacting with Facebook or Twitter hands free, you still have to look at the screen.

Did you know that sales of in-vehicle gadgets is expected to surpass $9.3 billion for the last year? There are some gadgets that are aimed at reducing cell phone use or at least making it safer. One such product will shut off your cell phone once your exceed 15 mph. There are gadgets that provide traffic alerts and accident reports using cell phone ring tones.

One FCC member, Meredith Attwell Baker, puts her two smart phones in her purse and locks them in the trunk before driving. Transportation Secretary, Raymond Lahood, puts his Blackberry in the glove compartment to ensure he is not distracted. Mr. Lahood has publicly stated that texting while driving has become an epidemic in America.

During one panel discussion at the Consumer Electronics Show, Peter Appel, the Transportation Department’s head of research and technology stated that his agency is researching ways to use technology to make driving safer. There is an application that will make the drivers seat vibrate or rumble and alert the driver to an accident ahead on the road. A couple of software firms have demonstrated technologies that block text messages and incoming calls while the car is being driven.   

So what’s the answer? Should all cell and internet communication devices be banned while driving? There are states where cell phone usage is illegal. Of course, if the technology is built into the vehicle, how will the troopers and police spot offenders and enforce such laws? Can all such communications be accomplished hands free and if so, does this ensure that the driver is not distracted? Yes, I talk on my cell when I drive sometimes. And I encounter distracted drivers every day who are talking and driving.  

What’s the answer? What do you think? What’s your view on this subject? Should cell use and internet connectivity be outlawed altogether?

If you are a Baby Boomer and haven’t joined our community, www.boomeropinion.com, please consider it. It is free and only takes a couple of minutes to sign up. You can share your viewpoint and voice your opinion on the critical issues facing America. And if we recruit enough of you, we can positively impact business and political policies around the country.

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Responses

  1. Comment from Ford Motor Co.
    I’m not sure how you think you’d have to look at the screen for this functionality. Under the new MyFord / SYNC system, your tweets are read to you – like an audio book or talk radio. Do those require you to look at the screen? No. And to be clear, there are states where handheld use of cellular phones is illegal – not the use of phones hands-free.

    Our entire connectivity strategy is based on making a simpler, smarter, safer way to do what you already do in your vehicle. It’s not to make it less safe or more complicated. Safety is our primary concern and we continue to work with researchers to ensure that we’re doing what makes sense for the driver.

    You can view a recent webcast we hosted on driver distraction here: http://bit.ly/FordDriveSafe. Please take the time to view this very important video.

    Scott Monty
    Global Digital Communications
    Ford Motor Company


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