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The AAA fears the smart, connected car: How much distraction is too much?

Posting in Transportation
 
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Will connected cars be more expensive to insure? 

Many of us like the idea of owning a smart, connected car -- but there are other facets to this technology than maps and music.

Talking on the phone and installing front-facing monitors in cars is not generally permitted as they are considered distractions -- but as the technology industry pushes for smarter cars, interactive dashboards, voice-activated functions and Web-connected services are in full swing. 

Apple announced the CarPlay service on Monday, which integrates the iPhone and voice-activation assistant Siri in to our vehicles. A number of automakers have pledged support for the service -- including Ferrari, Mercedes-Benz and Volvo -- and those who purchase new cars with CarPlay integration will be able to answer emails, make calls and dictate text responses while on the road. 

In addition, a Mercedes-Benz job posting suggests that rival firm Google is well on the way to providing its own Android-based alternative.

However, policymakers and consumer advocates are becoming nervous about the distraction this technology could become to drivers -- the American Automobile Association (AAA) included.

The AAA believes that a line should be drawn when integrating new technology into vehicles. In June, the federation of motor clubs put out a report warning that "a plethora of hands-free, in-vehicle communications" would be dangerous distractions to drivers, and just because your hands are on the wheel and eyes are up-front does not mean you are driving safely.

The study is due to be updated and released this summer. Jake Nelson, the association’s director for traffic safety advocacy and research told MarketWatch:

"We are very supportive of the introduction of technologies in the car to enhance convenience for consumers. But we are also very concerned about the balance between convenience and safety. It’s great that these technologies provide opportunities to consumers to multitask while driving. But we think it’s important to limit the functionalities of these technologies while the car is in motion."

Another question to ask: while some features can make drivers safer, could the inclusion of email reading, social media, text messaging and calls deem a car more of a risk and bring up our insurance premiums?

It is worth noting that not all modifications made to our cars to make them smarter also potentially make them more dangerous. For example, Nissan has recently released a new type of smart rear-view mirror that switches to footage gained from rear cameras if the view is obstructed. 

Read on: MarketWatch

Image credit: Apple | Mercedes-Benz

— By on March 5, 2014, 3:30 AM PST

Charlie Osborne

Contributing Editor

Charlie Osborne is a freelance journalist and photographer based in London. In addition to SmartPlanet, she also writes for business technology website ZDNet and consumer technology site CNET. She holds a degree in medical anthropology from the University of Kent. Follow her on Twitter. Disclosure