Connected Cars: The Future Of Communication Or A Plague Of Distraction?

By 2016, over 90% of new vehicles sold in America are expected to come equipped with Internet-connected technology features. As car manufacturers race to build the "iPad on Wheels," are we heading toward safety through hands-free technology, or a new wave of distracted drivers making the roads more dangerous?

Drive Tweeting

Last year, Ford CEO Alan Mulally started using a new slogan for his company.

"Ford, The App of Choice for Car Buyers."

The sentiment has been shared by other manufacturers as they push towards building cars that keep people connected to their digital lives while driving. Ford and others are investing heavily into the concept with many opening offices in Silicon Valley in hopes of drawing the top talent in internet and mobile technology.

Mercedes is working on allowing people to read information on their windshield. Other manufacturers are putting in voice-controlled text, Facebook, and Twitter read/respond options. Ford is turning smartphones into routers.

Is having this technology available safe for people on the road?

"Unfortunately, people are going to text and Tweet while driving whether the technology is there or not," said Driving News editor Chuck Capps from Seattle Nissan. "Making it hands-free can keep them more focused on the road."

Some don't share the sentiment, including David Champion, director of automotive testing at Consumer Reports.

"Voice controls are OK as long as you don't have an accent," Champion said. "The more mental energy you are using to enunciate words to make sure the system understands you, the less attention you are paying to the road."

There's a fine line between convenience and irresponsibility. Technologies that enable us to perform activities normally not associated with driving can increase the distraction levels and make roads more hazardous. The other side of the argument is that people are distracted already, so why not make roads safer by letting technology keep their eyes on the road, hands on the wheel, and attention on the cars in front of them?

Are we looking at a brighter future with more connectivity and expanded communication or is this the beginning of a new type of distracted driving?

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