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In-car Facebook and Twitter: A step forward or dangerously distracting?

Women listening to music in the car Imagine you could listen to your Twitter feed or Facebook status in your car?

Well one company says that’s the future for in-car technology. We speak to the experts behind the latest motoring gadget and ask: is it safe?

In-car technology has come a long way in just a couple of decades: from the radio, to the cassette player, to CDs, sat-nav and more recently MP3s and DVDs.

Now the pioneers behind some of the UKs best in-car sound systems have created web-connected entertainment for our motors.

This means drivers will be able to access the internet, including Facebook, Twitter, web radio stations and podcasts.

Sound manufacturer Harman says its Advanced Driver Assistance system (ADAS) allows drivers to have “a truly connected driving experience by giving them access to a vast array of web content right from the radio”.

How does it work?

ADAS operates using a cloud platform, so everything is stored in hardware within the car. With the in-built system all the controls are on the steering wheel, to offer hands-free usage. It uses 3G web connection but will work on 4G once its available UK-wide.

Road safety risk

In-car internet might sound futuristic but research from road safety charity Brake found that one in 11 drivers’ already go online, via their mobile phones, while driving.

Julie Townsend, Brake campaigns director, said: “People who text, use the web or social network when driving are taking enormous risks with their own and other people's lives. We are concerned that the increasing uptake of this technology could lead to more crashes and casualties caused by distracted drivers.”

But Rick Kreifeldt, vice president innovation and research at Harman, says the ADAS system is designed to avoid this kind of driver behaviour.

“The web connectivity means this system is fully integrated, unlike iPhones or MP3 players which drivers can currently plug in to standard systems,” he said.

“The difference between this and mobile technology is that it’s integrated into the car. The difficulty with iPhones, for example, is how do you get your car to integrate with it? You can’t.

“The other problem with phones is they’re made for looking at, which isn’t safe for drivers. All the buttons and controls on our systems are within the car on the steering wheel.”

Facebook and Twitter distractions

A recent Ofcom report warned of increasing levels of smartphone addiction in the UK by users who are unable to go without checking their phone even for short periods or through the night. So will this system encourage social media addiction?

Kreifeldt said:  “It’s no distraction, it’s really no different to talk radio and that’s been around for years. Your Facebook feed is played to you like a radio.

“The car industry has already said that it’s safe and road safety experts in the US have been the biggest advocates of this system.”
When will it be available?

This technology has already rolled out in the US and is due to launch in Asia and Europe soon. But, at the moment it’s reserved for the likes of Porsche and Ferrari and is an option on new models.

“By and large these systems are for premium customers but we’ve been involved in this from some of the first car radios and CDs,” Kreifeldt added.  “Although the technology has moved very fast we’re talking about the car world, which means it can take a long time to filter through.”

Despite this, Harman expect systems like this to be the future of motor entertainment.

“We’re actually in discussion with UK car makers who want this across their vehicle lines. Why should in-car internet be just for premium cars?”

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Lois Avery

Lois Avery

Lois joined in 2010 after working for Dyson and as a local newspaper reporter in Wiltshire. After a year writing financial journalism at, Lois won the 2011 'most promising newcomer' at the BIBA journalist of the year awards.

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