Auto manufacturers plan to put 4G, high-speed broadband connections into dashboards in 2015 models, making cars just as capable as smartphones or computers to go online.
According to the Wall Street Journal
, GM and Audi, as well as other carmakers, plan to unveil some of their ideas — including the ability to receive streaming video and accommodate various apps — at the International Consumer Electronics Show next week in Las Vegas. But Dave Teater, senior director of the National Safety Council, is warning that adding mobile technology that has nothing to do with driving is dangerous and "is just not the right direction" for automakers to go in.
"I don't blame the auto makers, but they are now in an arms race to be more connected and I think that sends a message that it is normal and not dangerous," Teater told the Journal.
How to minimize distractions for drivers plugging into their "infotainment" systems is now a challenge for auto manufacturers and technology companies. But they say consoles have been developed whose displays and controls are "glanceable," minimizing distraction.
Such dashboards are seen as a significant safety improvement over holding a smart phone while driving.
According to U.S. government data, 3,328 people were killed on U.S. roads in distraction-affected crashes
in 2012. Some 421,000 were injured in crashes involving a distracted driver. Eleven percent of drivers under 20 who were involved in fatal accidents were distracted.
Government experts report that the most dangerous distraction is texting while driving "because it involves manual, visual, and cognitive distraction simultaneously."
Car companies have moved slowly to interface their dashboards with Silicon Valley technology because they want to be sure they get a revenue return for making web connections seamless, the Journal reported.
Car owners will have to pay roaming charges to use apps built into their consoles that stream information like weather conditions and provide entertainment. Other new apps will make it easier to diagnose car trouble remotely.
Among the 10 applications GM has ready for download to the center screen of its vehicles are the Weather Channel, Slacker, a free on-line radio, and Glympse, which lets drivers share their location with anyone for a specified period.
Ford, according to the Journal, also plans to expand its current AppLink product that enables drivers to use voice commands to control apps.
Audi and Volkswagen drivers will be able to download Internet radio stations, GPS systems, and connect the car to multiple mobile devices.
The Journal also noted that Google is teaming up with manufacturers to make it easier to interface all kinds of smart devices with car dashboards.
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