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Warning: Automobile Connectivity May Lead To Early Grave

By: Gerald M. Goldhaber, Ph.D.
Originally Published in The Goldhaber Warnings Report, March 2012
Tel: 212-379-6661
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My former business partner, Marshall McLuhan was fond of telling me that North Americans go out of their homes to be quiet (compared with Europeans who go out to be social). Shortly after McLuhan told this to Henry Ford, Ford Motor Company began its national television campaign selling Ford automobiles as "the quiet one." Both McLuhan and Ford would probably turn over in their graves if they saw some of the new "connected" automobiles being marketed in the United States. General Motors' Onstar System allows the driver to connect to and communicate with Facebook. Ford's Think System allows the driver to send and receive texts while driving. BMW's radio takes 6 steps (and 10 seconds) to manually control its radio and find just one radio slation. With one of the most advanced automobile communication systems available, Toyota's Entune System advertises that yon can:

  • Access more than 16 million points of interest with Bing
  • Listen to more than 750 000 stations across the country via iHeartRadio
  • Find movies and theaters, and purchase tickets through
  • Find restaurants and make dinner reservations with OpenTable
  • Create and listen to customized play1ists with Pandora

With Entune, you also have access to a wealth of valuable data services, including:

  • Fuel Prices - View local fuel prices, and even sort by distance
  • Stocks - Find current stock prices and daily up/down price changes
  • Sports - Review scores, schedules, and standings
  • Traffic - Monitor current traffic incidents
  • Weather-Get current weather conditions, including temperatures, radar maps, as well as extended forecasts for many U.s. cities

What is the price of being so connected while you are driving down the road? And I am not referring to dollars! Studies have documented that the risk of crashing increases significantly when drivers take their eyes off the road for as little as 2 seconds. To put that in perspective, at 30MPH, you will travel 90 feet in 2 seconds and at a highway speed of 70MPH you will travel 210 feet! Anyone with a smartphone knows that 2 seconds is nothing when using any of its features, including just making or receiving a phone call (remember the good old days when that is all our cell phones did!). Last month, recogoizing this problem, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) issued "voluntary" guidelines calling on the automobile industry to stop equipping autos with entertainment and navigation systems that can distract drivers. NHTSA's critics, including the National Safety Council, claim that NHTSA didn't go far enough and make their suggestions into mandatory rules for the industry to follow. As this debate goes on between the industry's desire to sell "cool cars" and safety advocates who envision carnage on our roads and highways, my advice is to hang up your phone and pull over to the side of the road. And while you are on the side of the road, ask yourself one question: DO I REAlLY NEED TO BE CONNECTED ALL THE TIME?

Dr. Gerald M. Goldhaber, the President of Goldhaber Research Associates, LLC, is a nationally recognized expert in the fields of Political Polling and Warning Label Research. His clients include Fortune 500 companies, as well as educational and governmental organizations. He has conducted hundreds of surveys, including political polls for candidates running for U.S Congress, Senate, and President. Dr. Goldhaber also served as a consultant to President Reagan's Private Sector Survey for Cost Control.

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