Road Safety News
 

New system will allow Mercedes' drivers to check Facebook while driving

Thursday 12th January 2012

Mercedes has announced a partnership with Facebook which will allow drivers to check their status updates while on the move (The Drum & Fox Business).

The partnership, which also involves Yelp and Google, will see the firms’ services introduced to Mercedes’ 2013 models.

According to The Drum report, a new in vehicle telematics system will allow drivers to check their status updates on the move with a specially designed pared down menu system designed to minimise distractions.

The Fox Business report says that the system “will not only allow drivers to update their pages at 75 mph without using a smartphone, but also tie into the car's navigation system to alert all their nearby friends along the way”.

In the case of Facebook, the system will not allow text inputs, just a menu of canned messages selected with a tap. The car's GPS system can provide data that allows alerts 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.

Dan Rose, Facebook vice president, said: “Now that cars have screens that are intelligent, you would expect that more and more car manufacturers will want to make those screens capable of allowing people to connect with their friends and take advantage of the social context that comes along with that.

“One of the core things that people do on their screens in the car is GPS navigation and the ability to see which of your friends are nearby is something we think will be really interesting for people.”

We contacted Mercedes Benz UK press office to ask them to confirm whether a driver will be able to access Facebook while driving, and if so whether they think this poses a risk of distraction.

Caroline Burnell, press officer for Mercedes Benz UK, said: "This is a concept at present and the technology would be used to enhance the driver experience, not to detract from it.

"Regarding distractions, under the Mercedes-Benz philosophy the multimedia systems are designed to support the driver and enhance driver-fitness safety."

Click here to read the full The Drum report and click here to read the full Fox Business report.

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I do hope technophobic commentators are writing with their quill pens. And do you recall that Alexander Bell invented the telephone to transmit music and couldn't imagine who would use it? The applications of any new ideas mean we do new things. I can imagine expecting family or visitors and it being a useful way of tracking their progress.
Paula

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There aren't that many reasons to be glad one commutes by train, but I'll add this to the list.
Julia

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Alan, many thanks for supporting the view that all those involved in road safety especially RSOs and your organisation have a duty to lobby for this type of driver distraction be banned before it reaches our shores.

In addition I absolutely agree with you about the lack of police resources to police our roads and enforce the existing traffic laws. If we didn't have so many officers acting as social workers with others tied up working night shifts in town centres taking care of our drunken youth, (encouraged by government relaxation of drinking laws) more officers would be available for traffic duty both day and night.
Charles Dunn RoadDriver.co.uk

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It is pleasing to see an almost unanimous reaction against yet another unnecessary distraction in car.
Charles Dunn is correct when he states that Road Safety GB, which I am a part of, should from the top, using what muscle we might have, lobby and convince the powers that be that enough is enough. Whilst my group is lobbying to prevent this perhaps it is time that we lobbied very forcefully for a return to properly policed road networks.

It is no good passing laws if you have no one to enforce them rigidly and regularly. The offfences are out there, I see them every day, what I do not see every day, perhaps once a month if I am lucky is a Road Policing Unit patrol car, I have even stopped carrying my 'I Spy' book with me because I was not getting any ticks for patrol car.

We know that the mobile phone has, when being used, caused death on the road. As Road Safety GB corporately we need to fight against this further errosion of common sense. There are far too many people out there with licences who cannot drive safely, they certainly do not need more toys to make them even worse drivers!
Alan Hale - South Gloucestershire Council Road Safety Team

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Perhaps a representative of Mercedes would care to let us know what research and product/driver testing processes they are undertaking or have planned to assess the effect on driver concentration when using this interface whilst driving/in use by front seat passenger?
Honor Byford, North Yorkshire

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Andy, you're absolutely right to say that this technology is already available via smart phone devices etc. The difference here is that a prestigious car manufacturer has built one in to a car which implies legality of use.

Mercedes and the providers of these internet services are actually encouraging drivers to use this technology whilst driving, for the system is designed to check the whereabouts of your Facebook driving friends in relation to your vehicle's position via GPS so that you can then navigate to their position. I can envisage the situation of two drivers travelling in opposite directions on the motorway on the telephone discussing how near they are to each other according to their in car device screens and then waving to each other as they pass by.

There is much talk about drivers racing their sat navigation systems, these devices could spawn an altogether more dangerous sport.

I would be the first person to say what a useful device if it were only available when the vehicle is in park.

Recent reports have suggested that social networking is as addictive as taking drugs, so I would expect the use of this type of built in system to be prolific if it is taken up by the more mainstream car manufacturers.
Charles Dunn, RoadDriver.co.uk

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Being a natural technophobe, I only fall back on a satnav to reinforce my use of a good old-fashioned road atlas. I detest the use of mobile phones in cars and have no sympathy for anyone who gets prosecuted for using these distractions while driving. My initial reaction to this news release was the same as everyone elseís who has posted a comment so far.

However, having visited the website mentioned by Charles, I feel that this is type of equipment is already being used by [tens of] thousands of drivers each day. I have taught many potential and young drivers who have personal experience of their own or othersí use of this type of technology while at the wheel, on smartphones, satnavs and laptops on passenger seats etc while on the move. Mercedes are facilitating this type of activity by making it easier to accomplish by centralising the equipment. In this way it is probably safer that what is being done by countless mindless road users currently.

I feel that the laws probably are in place to prosecute users while using this technology on the move, just as it is for mobile phones etc. However, the inclusion and availability of this system does have its place when stationary; it is just a pity that we canít rely on many drivers to use it this way.

What is missing from the equation is the ability to rigorously enforce the law or [better still] prevent interaction unless the vehicle is stopped. After all, even a passenger using it while the vehicle is moving would be a significant distraction to the drive]. If Mercedes had developed this type of technology, perhaps it could then have truly claimed to have achieved something towards improving driver safety.
Andy Medway

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Absolutely rediculous idea, this should not be allowed in any vehicle on British roads.
Ian Kyle, Guildford

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Further to my previous post. This system is called MBrace2. It will be fitted in the S class Mercedes in the US this year and all Mercedes in the US next year. It is a Knob turn control system, so it is not touch screen system so a driver would have to scroll through the options. They could not have thought of a more driver distraction telematics device. For those interested, here is a Youtube link.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NjnTwTNDXM4
Charles Dunn RoadDriver.co.uk

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Dear Mr Kennedy. Chair Road Safety GB

With respect, I would say that this is one of those moments where an organisation such as yours has a duty to mobilise not only their own membership but also other road safety organisations such as RoSPA and Brake to coordinate an effective campaign to stop this incredulous Facebook in car proposal before it proceeds beyond the concept stage.

If this type of driver enhancement experience as Mercedes refer to it, truly has the backing of Yelp and Google, then the government better start building larger mortuaries for we will be back in the days of the pre-seat belt casualty figures.

RoadDriver will do all that it can to publicise our opposition to this very dangerous driver distraction proposal.
Charles Dunn RoadDriver.co.uk

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With the plethora of new technology now being introduced in vehicles, distraction from the driving task becomes more evident. It's about time the law intervened to limit the amount of distracting new technology in new vehicles. They have dealt with the mobile phone, why not others.
Tom Harrington LL B . Co. Kerry, Ireland

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That any vehicle manufacturer would even consider the use of technology in this way (whether it's at the concept stage or not) is saddening, but alas doesn't surprise me. We've become obsessed with social media and are seemingly at the stage where we'll prioritise it over life itself.

This story demonstrates the worrying 'potential' for new technology.

Can Mercedes please clarify how anyone's driver experience will be 'enhanced' if they are involved in a collision with the potential to cause death or injury to themselves, loved ones or innocent strangers?

As Alan says, our profession must resist and it reminds me why i'm in the job I am.
Becky Leeds

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This is so ridiculous, it could be a spoof. Is it 1st April already? It is inconceivable that a major manufacturer such as Mercedes would even contemplate allowing such a system to be fitted to their vehicles. They are clearly seeing this move as a way to tap into a bigger market of socially mobile individuals who cannot survive in life without their 'friends' and 'likes'. Call me old fashioned, but I don't need Facebook to have friends, and I certainly don't want a car that seeks them out. The biggest and most obvious worry is of course the distraction element. No matter how 'driver friendly' the system is, and having seen the addictive nature of Facebook, I fear we will see an increase in the number of Mercedes cars wrapped around trees, pedestrians and cyclists. My status: Check out my wall...er the one I have just collided with. This is something the road safety profession must resist.
Alan Kennedy - Chair

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This is astounding.

Advances in technology can be great but not when safety is compromised.
James Gibson, Leicestershire

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