Ride Boldly!

Bikes, bicycling, and road safety.

In-Car Search: Ouch


Several car manufacturers offer some form of in-car navigation system as a built-in. Mobile devices and GPS systems provide other drivers with similar options. Today, Bing (Microsoft’s search engine) announced a deal to be the in-car search provider for Toyota’s new in-car navigation and mobile system. It’s got an in-dashboard touch-screen as well as voice capabilities.

Really, until we have good robot cars, I do not like these systems. We talk a lot about distracted driving, and banning mobile phone use and texting in cars, but these units sit in a grey area so far as those laws go. While studies show that even using hands-free units diminishes driver capacity, few laws restrict device use via voice command/hands-free systems.

And don’t kid yourself. These systems aren’t always going to be being used by the person riding shotgun, or pulled over in the mini-mart parking lot. Even when there is a non-driver using such an in-dash system, they are bright and colorful and eye-catching.

I suspect that as these dash units spread into more cars, we’ll be seeing more chaotic driving as a result. Since tracking of distracted-driving accidents tends to rely on user report – in other words, the driver has to admit what was going on – I don’t expect to see solid statistics on this any time soon.

I do intend to continue my habit of assuming all drivers on the road are crazy, whether I am driving or cycling, however.

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Author: julie

Julie Kosbab is an online marketing consultant and active transportation advocate living in Anoka County, Minnesota. She was one of Minnesota's only League of American Bicyclists Certified Instructors when certified in 2005. She is a past member of the National Bicycle Tour Directors Association. She has 2 children and 4 bicycles. Find her on Twitter as @betweenstations.

One Comment

  1. I agree that drivers should not be able to use navigation units while driving, but as a cyclist who often rides shotgun in his wife’s touch-screen-equipped Toyota Camry Hybrid, I have to say that the touch screen issue is a non-issue.

    The unit that’s installed in my wife’s car basically cuts out all touch inputs when the car is moving (annoyingly, even the passenger cannot use it, which seems really stupid to me). Maybe it’s different on some models, but from my experience, Toyota’s touch screens are disabled while the car is in motion.

    The real problem with these nav screens (apart from the silly inability to allow passenger use) is that the navigation screen does distract the driver even when a passenger is there to navigate. The nav screen is constantly taking the driver’s eyes away from the road. The fact is, navigation should not be a visual experience. There is no reason (other than for marketing purposes – flashy computer graphics sell cars!) why it can’t be done via audio alone.