Maybe it’s time to unfriend your Mercedes-worshipping buddies on Facebook.
Starting this spring, their cars will begin to pester you with status updates. Mercedes-Benz and Facebook on Tuesday announced a partnership that will not only allow drivers to update their pages at 75 mph without using a smartphone, but also alert all their nearby friends along the way.
The technology will roll out as 2013 models are introduced.
All automakers are trying to find ways to deal with the growing distraction of in-car electronics. Federal safety regulators would prefer to ban such devices outright. But certainly a built-in device that keeps eyes nearer the road is safer than squinting at an iPhone tucked in the driver’s lap in hopes of avoiding the attention of law enforcement.
The mbrace2 system, introduced at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, connects to the Internet via a 3G system and uses a variety of applications -- Google, Facebook, Yelp -- tailored for high-speed use.
In the case of Facebook, that means no text inputs, just a menu of canned messages selected with a tap. The car’s GPS system can provide data that alert drivers to friends nearby or places and activities that friends “like.” If the driver has input a destination into the navigation system, updates on his progress can go automatically to his or her Facebook page.
Safer than texting, but not as safe as simply driving
Updating a Facebook page on the freeway probably is no worse than making a phone call with a hands-free device. And even with such devices, there’s widespread disagreement on how much distraction they cause.
But no one -- no one -- thinks that in-car electronics make the roads safer.
Bill Windsor, spokesperson at Nationwide Mutual Insurance Company, put it this way to TechNewsWorld: “I can't imagine there's any Facebook message or e-mail message or anything else you'd need from the Internet that's that important it would take precedence over focusing when you're driving."
Car insurance companies don’t ding you simply for using a cellphone, or for surfing the Web. They have to rely on your driving record, and state laws around telematics lag woefully behind the times.
We here at CarInsurance.com are old and uncool, and our cars are even older and less cool. We worry about some smart kid hacking our cars, or about leaving a trail of status updates that lands us in courtroom.
But we are also slaves to stereotypes, and as much as we worry about a wandering Mercedes-Benz on the freeway, we are wondering just how many Mercedes-Benz drivers use Facebook.