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Google and Intel are working on internet dashboards for drivers – and are already getting flak from road safety organisations.
At CES, the companies demonstrated cars equipped with ten-inch screens above the gearshift, displaying 3D maps, web pages and videos. Motor companies such as Audi, Ford and BMW are looking at introducing systems within the next year.
But the companies may have misjudged the zeitgeist. With texting at the wheel banned in many countries and the subject of great debate in the US, it may not be quite the right time to launch yet another driver distraction.
Says Peter Rodger, Chief Examiner of the Institute of Advanced Motorists in the UK, “If drivers were tempted to use the internet or watch videos on the move, the results could be deadly. 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?”
Rodger says he believes that viewing information online while driving should be illegal – as should selling the equipment to do it. “It should be made clear that the system should only be used when the vehicle is parked,” he says.
While digital dashboards are not designed to be used on the move, many do allow this. Indeed, says Rodger, one car manufacturer’s version, due out this autumn, bears the notice: “Please only use the online services when traffic conditions allow you to do so safely.”