Infotainment: Will Dashboard Internet Access Be Too Distracting?

dashboard Internet for a Tesla S.

Cabin interiors, such as this Tesla, come with infotainment systems.

Access to the Internet is more widely available than ever before and the inside of your vehicle is no exception. As cars become capable of displaying more than just simple navigation instructions, will navigation become infotainment? And, will dashboard Internet access be deemed too distracting?

What is Dashboard Internet?

Dashboard Internet is a relatively new car feature. Essentially, it centralizes several features already available in some vehicles, with screens above the gear shift equipped with a fully functional touch-screen PC. Dashboard Internet is a centralized hub for navigation, music, car information, phone calls and more.

These systems allow drivers to get GPS navigation wherever they are; they also provide access to 3D maps and street views. Systems may also allow drivers to call friends, adjust the car’s temperature, play music and check fuel levels while driving, using voice commands. While the car is parked, the technology can be used to get location or event information, such as temperature, venue information, business or restaurant reviews and traffic conditions. In addition, drivers can stream videos in their car.

Currently, dashboard Internet is mainly available in luxury vehicles, but over time, it may become standard in most new cars. This means that many consumers will be learning to navigate new, potentially distracting car features.

Infotainment Benefits & Risks

Some people are worried about the potential distraction posed by dashboard iInternet. This new technology creates many of the same risks as existing car features, such as front-seat televisions and GPS navigation systems. The ability to watch videos and get directions while driving is not a new phenomenon, but it takes that to the next level by providing drivers with access to the entire web.

People concerned about safety raise several concerns about this new trend:

  • Distracted driving is proven to be a factor in many accidents, especially when drivers look away from the road.
  • Drivers may be too busy pressing buttons and watching the screen to pay attention to road conditions.
  • Systems may be too elaborate to easily navigate while driving.

On the other hand, manufacturers and consumers counter that dashboard Internet is safe when used correctly because it:

  • Prevents drivers from having to fumble with maps.
  • Can be manned by the front seat passenger instead of the driver.
  • Should be set before the driver hits the road.
  • Is similar to other devices which have been on the market for a while and are still approved for the road.
  • Can give voice commands and play videos with sound, meaning drivers don’t need to rely on looking at the screen.
  • Is often manufactured to restrict access to complex features while the vehicle is in motion.

Personal Judgment

Right now, the verdict is still out on infotainment for the car dashboard. It needs to become more widespread before we’ll have a clear answer. Studies on the subject are being conducted. What is clear, though, is that drivers with dashboard Internet, like all drivers, should exercise good judgment and personal responsibility when using their devices.

Author Information

Doug Climenhaga is president of SVI International, Inc., a leading supplier of parts for industrial lift equipment, including brake lathe parts. With more than 20 years experience in the hydraulic and automotive lift industries, he holds two patents and has designed scores of problem solving products.

Photo courtesy of Tesla Motors.

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