Car Companies Vie for Supremacy in Distracted Driving Arms Race

The GPS system with the tiny keyboard. The mounted DVD player for the kiddies. Satellite radio with 1,000 channels. Now there’s even in-dash, voice-activated Facebook.

Industry observers describe a "race to arms" among auto companies to install driver distraction systems. Photo: Info NIAC

Welcome to the modern car, where a host of distracting gadgets comes standard. These digital additions are becoming as ubiquitous as cupholders, writes Paul Atchley at Car Talk:

In the distraction arms race, it is not entirely clear who is to blame: Detroit or Main Street … The sad truth is, distracting technologies also help to sell cars. If you’re a manufacturer, cars are all about profit — in fact, automobile companies have a fiduciary responsibility to make a profit. Until consumers demand otherwise, we need to get ready for a lot of new 21st century cup holders. For those of us who spend our days working to reduce deaths and injuries on our roads, that’s an ominous sign.

Keri at Commute Orlando says the trend is symptomatic of a larger problem:

Why does the consumer want these things? Because they’re bored out of their minds. That’s why. Driving sucks.

We’ve engineered our entire transportation system around an activity which requires increasing amounts of unproductive time, unless you are distracted. Driving is time spent between what you were doing and what you want or need to do next. It steals hours of our lives we’ll never get back. Too many people have all but forgotten it’s a task that actually requires attention. But that’s not hard to do. What with the highway engineers enabling mindless driving and the car companies supplying distractions.

What could possibly go wrong?

Elsewhere on the Network today: Gateway Streets looks at the city of St. Louis’ mind boggling decision to turn over a street to another municipality because its thriving commercial district has slowed auto traffic. M-Bike.org asks what effect Detroit’s staggering 25 percent population loss will have on roads and cycling. And Biking in LA sees the New York City bikelash as instructive for other cities taking steps to restore balance to their roadways.