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Safety officials worry about new technology in cars

Safety officials have called distracted driving an epidemic. State lawmakers have acted to create laws to make distracted driving a crime. Yet, each day many people get behind the wheel and pick up their phones, look at their in-dash systems, or otherwise take their eyes off of the road, causing a car accident.

While regulators continue to try to tackle this problem, car companies and tech companies have also been examining the issue and trying to find ways to make car display systems less distracting and easier to use. It’s only natural then that the company that prides itself on an easy user-interface, Apple Computers, wades into the marketplace. Enter “CarPlay” the tech company’s new in-dash system that mimics iPhone functionality in the car.

The system is set to be installed in Volvo and Mercedes-Benz models this year with other car companies following suit in the next few years. Apple has touted the system as an improvement for safety, allowing drivers to access their phone using Siri, the iPhone voice assistant software.

However, experts say that the integrated system may not improve safety, because cognitive distraction can be just as dangerous as taking your eyes off of the road. In fact, safety experts have gone as far as saying that they are concerned about the new technology. A study released last year found that composing a text manually or through voice dictation software both increased the likelihood of an accident through increased reaction time to hazards.

What do you think – is this software a good idea or will it enable drivers to skirt distracted driving laws without a safety benefit?

Source: CNN, “Apple's CarPlay draws safety criticism,” James O’Toole, March 5, 2014. 

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