Earlier this month, Apple unveiled CarPlay, which allows drivers to operate their in-dash display using their iPhone. A number of manufacturers - including Volvo, Mercedez and Ferarri - have already integrated the technology into their latest models.
Mobile marketing strategists are understandably excited about the possibilities for communicating data to consumers. Some uses are immediately obvious: linking auto diagnostic information to the web could guide drivers to the nearest repair shop in the event of a technical failure, for instance.
In the midst of all the buzz, safety groups have expressed concern that the bells and whistles of the technology may be a distraction to drivers. In an interview with CNN, David Teater, senior director at the nonprofit National Safety Council, said he was ‘very, very concerned’ by the technology. He described the rise of infotainment dashboards created by car manufacturers and tools developed by the electronics industry as ‘an arms race to see how we can enable drivers to do stuff other than driving.’
Phone use has been identified as the main factor in the majority of distracted driving incidents. Naturally, Apple claims to be making us safer by allowing almost every function to be performed with Siri voice commands. But a number of studies dispute the notion that hands-free phone usage is safer. Research conducted at Texas A & M Transportation Institute found driver reaction times doubled if they were texting – irrespective of whether it was hands-free or manual. A University of Utah study came to similar conclusions.
A few states have tried to tackle the problem by introducing phone bans, but such legislation is notoriously hard to enforce. Carmakers and tech companies suggest more technology is needed to improve safety, not less. Systems have already been developed to automatically brake cars or pull them back into the right lane. ‘Vehicle-to-vehicle’ technology promises to cut accident rates by allowing drivers to communicate with each other.
Another argument coming from pro-tech corners is that advances like CarPlay actually wallow passengers to help drivers concentrate on the road. Where second parties are in the vehicle, all navigation and other duties can fall to them. This, perhaps, could be where the potential lies for mobile marketing strategies.
Whichever side you’re on, and whatever the law in your state is, be safe on the roads: don’t text while driving.