One of the technologies I get really excited about is the growing integration of computers and cars.
We are seeing growing integration of the computer, mobility and automotive world.
I was a convert the first time I rented a Ford car with Microsoft Sync installed. If you have yet to experience Microsoft Sync (and other products like it), it works like this: as soon as you get into your car, your phone connects with the on-board Bluetooth interface. So, for example, control of your phone is passed on to steering wheel controls for answering calls. Bluetooth integration between your phone, your iPod, and your car is absolute magic. When you start adding voice control you can select songs and playlists, control volume, make and receive phone calls.
Every manufacturer now is integrating this Bluetooth connectivity and we are seeing some cars that have phenomenal interfaces, including not just phone and music, but texting, email, search, navigation and even social networking in the car.
Voice recognition technology is making it all come together, and we are starting to see new display technology that will ultimately include HUD (heads-up display) where data is projected onto the front windscreen, à la fighter jets. But there is a cloud on the horizon. There is a growing groundswell of concern surrounding the issue of distracted driving.
Most everywhere now has legislation surrounding talking on the phone while in the car, but the concern is growing to include anything that distracts you from the task at hand.
While we have terrific hands-and eyes-free interfaces that allow us to manage all these communications and entertainment features, it will be impossible to argue that receiving texts while you drive, or sending a message to a colleague is anything but distracting.
It simply has to be a distraction, regardless if we accomplish the task via voice, while never taking our eyes off the road. So the question is: What are Microsoft and Ford and all the others going to do as new legislation comes online? Can they, in good faith, put up an argument that the growing technical capabilities of in-car systems is not a distraction? I think not.
Perhaps one saviour for the auto tech firms is the growing integration of proximity and navigation technology. Park assist will parallel park your car, blind spot sensors warn you when someone is unseen beside you. Backup assist systems warn you if objects are too near your rear bumper. As more technology is brought to market to assist us in the actual process of driving we may see a tradeoff
For the short term, however, while I really do get excited about new in-car technology, that excitement is tempered with the constant concern that we are going too far, and not paying attention to what is really important: getting there safely.
Steve Dotto is host of Dotto Tech, 6 p.m. Wednesdays on AM650. Email your questions and comments to questions@dottotech. com.