Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Battling the Unneccesary

I know we don't elect the head of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, but I would like to nominate current Administrator David Strickland for a lifetime term in that position.  Strickland is getting ready to do battle with automakers who continue to load up their vehicles with unneccesary and distracting "infotainment" technologies.

Addressing a conference of engineers in Michigan last week, Strickland said: "I'm just putting everyone on notice.  A car is not a mobile device.  I'm not in the business of of helping people 'tweet' better.  I'm not in the business of helping people post on Facebook better." 

Strickland is refering to the growing trend of equipping cars with wireless internet access--like Ford's SYNC technology--which will read you your Twitter feed and Facebook wall as you drive--and will compose your own posts as you speak them.  Not to mention the influx of in-car home-theater systems with multiple DVD players and screens available for just about every passenger.

Call me old-fashioned, but I still think of a vehicle as a machine designed for a single purpose--to get me from Point A to Point B safely and quickly.  If you can throw a little heat on me during the winter and provide me with a little Beatles to sing along to--that is good enough.  But more and more, American drivers have come to expect their vehicles to be miniature versions of their living rooms or home offices.

Believe me, the kids will survive a one-hour road trip without Spongebob in front of their face--and for long trips, they still make Car Bingo--which actually forces kids (and their parents) to pay attention to what they are driving past.  And Mr Businessman, you are not the President of the United States, you can actually be out of touch for the 15-minutes needed to run out and get your $5 cappucino.

I used to applaud the "Hang Up and Drive" bumper stickers that came out during the initial cell phone explosion of the 1990's.  Maybe David Strickland can work with someone to come up with "Log Off and Drive" stickers for the 21st Century.

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