Entries in Driving (4)


Safer Alternative? New Technology Allows Drivers to Check Tweets and More

Ford Motor Company(NEW YORK) -- From checking tweets to purchasing concert tickets, automakers say they are providing a safer alternative to what drivers are already doing in their cars -- even though critics warn the move just adds to the distracted-driving epidemic.

Ford Motor Co.’s Sync uses voice commands to allow drivers to command and control apps on their smartphones, make calls and select songs on an MP3 player -- all without the use of their hands.

General Motors Co.’s CUE will have an eight-inch touch screen display that functions much like a tablet and smartphone, allowing drivers to make calls, access apps and maps and scroll through lists.

Mercedes-Benz’s Mbrace system will help drivers find destinations via Google Maps, locate a parked vehicle with their smartphone and buy event tickets.

Rob Reynolds, executive director of FocusDriven, an organization that seeks to educate people about the dangers of distracted driving, said these “infotainment systems” were dangerous because they were visually attractive to drivers.

“You shouldn’t be interacting with computers when you’re driving,” said Reynolds, whose teenage daughter was killed in a car crash caused by a distracted driver in 2007. “The propensity for loss of life is much too great.”

“Distracted driving is an epidemic. This will cause crashes, I guarantee it,” he said. “We need to listen to government bodies like the NTSB.”

In December, the National Transportation Safety Board urged all U.S. states to ban drivers from using electronic devices while driving, including for text messaging. In 2009, more than 5,400 people died and nearly 550,000 were injured in crashes linked to distraction, according to the Department of Transportation.

Reynolds said that by adding these in-dash technology systems to vehicles, carmakers were suggesting to drivers that they could safely drive while they are occupied doing other tasks.

But Alan Hall, Ford Motor Co.’s technology communications manager, said the company’s Sync program was in response to consumer trends that had grown in the last five years because of mobile devices.

“Drivers that are doing these activities (such as checking tweets), we are providing a safer alternative to them,” Hall told ABC News. “This is a growing trend inside of the car. Technology is critical for our customers.”

Doug VanDagens, the global director of connected services at Ford, said the carmaker was taking a practical view.

“We looked at what people were already doing in their cars. … If they’re doing that in their cars, we’re going to make it safer with voice [command],” he said. “Voice orientation … allows you to keep your hands on the wheel and eyes on the road while you do things you normally do in the car. [Sync is] a safer alternative to how people use phones in the car.”

Carroll Lachnit, a features editor at, said carmakers were correct that drivers were requesting more technology in vehicles. A survey at the end of 2011 by Deloitte found that 59 percent of those ages 19 to 31 said that the most important part of a car’s interior as the in-dash technology. Of that 59 percent, 75 percent preferred a touch-screen interface to dials or buttons.

“Carmakers are in the business of selling cars … [and] meeting customer demand,” she told ABC News. “Automakers are trying to reach an accommodation and give consumers what they want in a safe way. [But] drivers need to be aware when they’re in the car [that] their job is to drive and multitasking is not a good thing. No[body] is making you update your Facebook status in your car.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Thanksgiving Travel: Filling Up Will Cost More This Year

Jupiterimages/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Gas prices have been falling in recent weeks, but motorists across the country will pay more to fill up during the busy Thanksgiving holiday than they did last year. Price tracker says the average cost is about 50 cents a gallon more than in November 2010.

Regular gas averages $3.40 a gallon, compared with nearly $4.00 in July. Rising U.S. oil production may keep pump prices from rising much higher, despite the recent increase in West Texas crude prices on global markets.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


New Social Network Allows for Calls, E-Mail to Other Drivers

Jupiterimages/Thinkstock (AUSTIN, Texas) -- Have you ever wanted to call another driver to complain about cutting you off? Or to tell him that his brake lights aren't working? Or even to ask him out on a date? Now you can.

Through a new start-up called, drivers across the country can use their license plates to connect with each other via e-mails, text and voice messages and even access discounts to local stores based on the locations where they're driving.

"It's kind of like a Groupon and a Foursquare meets AAA and LoJack -- all of which you can't turn off," said Mitch Thrower,'s San Diego, Calif.-based founder and CEO.

The company is powered by a program that scans and automatically recognizes license plate numbers in pictures taken by security cameras on the road. It then matches up those numbers with e-mail accounts, mobile phones and location systems to let people communicate.

For two years, has been in "stealth" mode, Thrower said, building up the technology behind the company and assigning e-mail addresses and voicemail boxes to license plates across the country.

At the South by Southwest Interactive Festival in Austin, Texas on Monday, the company officially launched on an open-invitation basis. To join, you can register on the company's website for an invitation to "claim your plate." After receiving the invitation, users can go to to verify car ownership and set up a profile.

But even if you don't want to be a part of a social network for the streets, Bump will capture images of your license plate and assign it an identity. Other drivers will be able to send messages to your car, but you only receive those text and voice messages if you sign up for the network and register yourself as the license plate owner. not only lets drivers communicate -- a chance to exchange both gripes and Good Samaritan messages -- it can also let parents track their children and companies and taxi companies monitor their fleets.

Thrower is also working with towing companies on a system that would alert drivers when their cars are towed. Instead of calling the police department to track down your towed car, the towing company would just send you an e-mail or voicemail, he said.

But messaging capabilities are just one piece of the puzzle, Thrower said. will also offer drivers a AAA-type membership program that gives drivers discounts and promotions based on their locations for a $49 annual fee. For example, at the upcoming Coachella Music Festival in California, will give attendees discounts on iTunes downloads of songs played at the festival, if the service spots their license plates.

Eventually, members could receive discounts from nearby stores as the service spots them driving by, as well as roadside assistance.

Recognizing that distracted driving is an increasing concern, Thrower said, disables texting while the car is moving and sends all messages straight to voicemail to keep drivers focused on the road.

While some might be alarmed that a single company is amassing so much information about people's location and driving habits, Thrower emphasized that the company automatically defaults to the most private settings, won't turn over information to insurance companies and filters out obscenity-laced road-rage messages. But in cases of child abductions and other public safety situations, he said, technology can help law enforcement track down criminals. "The Good Samaritan piece is a big one for us," Thrower said. "We want to make the roads safer."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio 


AT&T to Release Anti-Texting While Driving Documentary

Photo Courtesy - AT&T(DALLAS) -- AT&T will release a 10-minute documentary educating drivers on the dangers of texting while driving.  The short piece, to be distributed nationwide to schools, safety organizations and federal agencies, will feature stories from individuals and families whose lives have been affected by texting while driving.

"This documentary is a raw look at the reality and hazards of texting while driving, and we hope it will make wireless customers think twice before pulling out their cell phones in the driver's seat," said Cathy Coughlin, senior executive vice president and global marketing officer for AT&T.

The anti-texting doc is part of AT&T's "It Can Wait" campaign and can be viewed online at the AT&T "It Can Wait" website as well as the company's YouTube page.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio 

ABC News Radio