Risk of accident: Internet in the car is becoming a risk on the streets

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Internet in the car is becoming a risk on the roads

Risk of accident: Internet in the car is becoming a risk on the streets-accident

The car is becoming an entertainment studio, and the Ministry of Transport is planning to introduce clear rules of conduct for drivers here

Source: Infographic Won

Navigation systems, on-board computers and now also the internet and social networks: In cars, more and more people are distracting from the traffic. The manufacturers see the problem – but they say: "Customer request!"

E.It’s only a few moments – just a few finger exercises on the monitor to enter a new destination. But in just a few seconds it happens on Autobahn 63 near Kaiserslautern: A minibus occupied by four young people skids, hits the guardrail, shoots across the lane and finally hits a semi-trailer. Four seriously injured, 50,000 euros in property damage.

More and more accidents happen because drivers are busy doing other things while on the move. Multitasking at the wheel is widespread: According to Allianz insurance, more than every second person programs the navigation system while driving. Around 30 percent of drivers read text messages or e-mails, and one in five types the answers straight away.

Ten percent of accidents are caused by distraction

Driving becomes a minor matter. "About one in ten traffic accidents is largely caused by distracting behavior on the part of drivers," reports Allianz board member Mathias Scheuber. Young drivers in particular are at risk.

And the danger increases. Car manufacturers have long been developing their own apps and online services that flicker on the displays in the instrument panels. Connectivity is the word for it, and it means that the car is networked, connects to the Internet as soon as the engine is started and gets the latest news from the network.

With Twitter and Facebook on the Autobahn

If you don’t want to lose contact with your online friends, you can even tweet on the go. Audi advertises with "revolutionary infotainment and entertainment functions" and promises that "comfort and fun in the automobile will be raised to a new level".

For traffic experts, every glance at the display is one look too many. If the driver’s attention is distracted by a second, he covers almost 14 meters in blind flight at 50 km / h. On the autobahn at 160 km / h, the car travels around 45 meters in one second.

And one second is not enough to record everything that comes into the car online: news with photos, sports reports, health tips, weather reports and electronic chatter on social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter or Glympse – lots of reading material while driving.

The premium manufacturers vie for online offers

Even safety pioneer Mercedes is taking part: "Both when stationary and while driving, Mercedes customers can access the latest and interesting information in a user-friendly manner and view the news, including photos, on the vehicle display," the Stuttgart company advertises for a news app that will be released at the end of June went online.

Since then, the headings of four different messages and associated images have appeared on the display along the way. And the “BMW Online” service delivers text messages with photos that the driver has to scroll through using the iDrive controller in the center console.

The ADAC warns of rolling offices

"Applications that have no relation to the driving task are to be assessed critically," says the ADAC and warns: "In particular, applications that expand the driver’s workplace into a rolling office involve great risks."

When asked why the Internet program is not hidden while driving, a BMW spokeswoman replied: "Customers would still go online while on the move – with their smartphone in hand." It would be better to have the online services in the vehicle to integrate and to design the display ads safely. Obviously, the focus is also on the customer: Internet in the car is now one of the most important criteria when buying a car, especially among the younger generation.

Free surfing is blocked

So far, only normal Internet pages have been hidden while driving. "Free web browsing is only possible when the vehicle is stationary," says Mercedes spokesman Benjamin Oberkersch. This is necessary because the car manufacturers have no control over the content of the websites.

Moving images – for example films – could be transferred to the display, which, according to a recommendation of the EU Commission, is taboo while driving. The ADAC, however, demands that “the use of all devices that require the driver to look to the vehicle while driving must be reduced to a minimum”.

The Ministry of Transport relies on insight

But the Ministry of Transport does not consider further regulations to be necessary at the moment. "We rely on insight," says Minister Peter Ramsauer (CSU), but advocates increased police controls.

Only: what should be checked? Reading a screen while driving is not forbidden, law enforcement officers can only intervene if the driver takes their smartphone in hand to type in phone numbers, write emails or tweet.

BMW offers text modules for answers

Meanwhile, automakers are developing a form of self-restraint to reduce the flood of information and driver distraction. If he starts Twitter or Facebook, only up to three lines of text should appear on the BMW display.

Answers should be possible, but in a reduced form: the driver chooses from text modules. This then results in more or less meaningful status messages: “I’m at GPS position north 50 ° 05" 49 "and east 8 ° 43" 23 "and I’ll be arriving soon" or "I’m driving at 120 km / h on the motorway and the outside temperature is 27 degrees".

Voice control is supposed to make online interaction safer

The future of automotive online communication should look completely different anyway. Just as the radio and navigation system can be controlled using voice commands today, in the future e-mails or tweets will be read out by the computer and people will also respond verbally to them. BMW is now offering this for the first time in the new 7 Series: the driver dictates his or her e-mails into the voice mailbox of a network provider, which then creates a text message and sends it to the recipient.

"If you will, we are now bringing the hands-free facility for e-mails or text messages into the car," says BMW developer Christian Suess. Mercedes will follow in spring 2013 and will link the new A-Class with the Apple voice control "Siri" when an iPhone 4S is connected.

Wanted: a car that thinks for itself

"Even the extensive interaction with a voice interface, as would be required for receiving or sending electronic messages, would distract the driver to a considerable extent from the traffic situation," says the ADAC. The experts warn of the additional mental strain. It is comparable to a phone call behind the wheel: the driver concentrates so intensely on his conversation or his email dictation that inevitably his attention to the traffic decreases.

Due to the distraction, the driver only pays attention to the distance to the vehicle in front and is therefore no longer aware of other processes on and off the road. According to Allianz research, the risk of accidents increases by two to three times while making a phone call while behind the wheel.

What traffic scientists want in order to reduce the risk of accidents through distraction only exists in the research vehicles of some car manufacturers: an operating and display system that recognizes the respective traffic situation and the stress of the driver and only complicated operating tasks, Internet reception, e-mails or tweets then allows if it is safe. In other words: a car that empathizes and thinks for itself.

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