More cars connecting you to your social world

September 23, 2011 3:59:42 PM PDT
You have probably seen drivers texting behind the wheel, and maybe you have even done it yourself. While it is a dangerous habit, distracted driving is about to go to a while new level thanks to your car.

Update your Facebook status, find restaurant listings, check weather and stock reports -- it's easy on your computer or smart phone. But in your car? More and more car makers are incorporating access to social media and the web. Consumer Reports takes a closer look at this trend and other potential distractions behind the wheel.

One commercial for the Chevy Cruze touts real-time updates from Facebook using the OnStar system as you're driving down the road. OnStar is just one of the ways manufacturers are helping you stay in touch.

With Audi's new Audi Connect system, you can check weather reports and gas prices even while driving.

Ford's Sync system can read text messages to you.

"More and more cars allow you to stay connected. But that's a problem if it leads to more driver distraction," said Tom Mutchler with Consumer Reports.

Another source of distraction are the complicated controls. For example, on one BMW, Consumer Reports found tuning in a radio station is a six-step process.

"You push the controller knob to the left. Then you rotate the knob up to FM. Push the knob down to confirm. Rotate the knob up to manual. Push the knob down to confirm. That gives you the tuning screen. Turn the knob until you get to the station you want," Mutchler explained.

Even in a parked car, this task takes a full 10 seconds.

Voice controls can help and it's easier to use the vehicle controls rather than the small buttons and screens on your iPod or cell phone.

"Still, it's no excuse for manufacturers to make otherwise simple controls overcomplicated," Mutchler said.

You want your focus to be on the road, where it belongs.

Consumer Reports says more connected cars are coming Toyota's new Entune system, which will begin showing up this fall, allows drivers to search the web. And in some Ford vehicles, you can even receive Twitter updates.

Keep in mind, there are cell phone bans in some areas; you can use a Bluetooth headset, but no texting. Most of the in car devices are designed to allow hands free access.


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