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A View from Erika Jonietz

Ford's Dashboard Internet

A new way for drivers to access the Internet that, the automaker says, is safe.

  • January 8, 2010

Ford announced its new MyFord system at CES yesterday. The driver-control system, based largely on Ford’s Sync system, offers even more voice commands. But MyFord also introduces an 8-inch touch-screen in the car’s dashboard for accessing the internet.

While Ford endorsed a proposed federal ban on texting while driving last year, its new system is said to allow drivers to interact with even more Internet-based systems, such as Twitter, Pandora, and Stitcher–although only through a voice interface. Still, multiple studies, including two from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, show that drivers are four times more likely to have an accident if they are talking on the phone–hands-free or not–while driving.

Ford, like other car makers, is trying to balance on the fine line between consumer demand and auto safety. It’s a tough one to negotiate, but insurers are starting to come down on the side of fewer distractions of any sort. Nationwide Insurance offers drivers a 5 percent discount for using technology that blocks them from using a cell phone while the car is in motion, and State Farm, the largest insurance company in the United States, is studying the technology.

As a driver, I can clearly see both sides of the argument: it’s convenient and tempting to talk or text (or use GPS) while driving–especially when stuck in traffic. But I know that I am more distracted when I do. Personally, I can’t wait for cars that drive themselves, so I can do whatever I want in the car, whether I’m driving or not. But I’m not holding my breath.

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