If Shamil Shalwani wants to keep up with his favorite team while he's on the road, he only has to consult his car.
"My favorite app is the sports scores app," Shalwani said. "When I first saw the feature of the new apps inside the car, I was pretty impressed."
Thanks to his car's digital dashboard, Shamil says he's no longer tempted to reach for his smartphone. "Before I got this car, it was very hard to keep the phone out of my hand."
While these digital dashboards with apps were once found only in luxury automobiles, they're now quickly hitting mainstream with car companies now integrating them into their mass market vehicles.
Jake Nelson is the Director or Traffic Safety Advocacy & Research for AAA. He said, "We're seeing applications built right into the vehicle that allow you to not only order pizza while driving and update your Facebook and Twitter feed, but also to book and reserve hotel rooms."
Mark Takahashi is the Automotive Editor for Edmunds.com.
"Say you're in an unfamiliar city and you want dinner reservations or recommendations, or you want to get movie tickets, or you just want to know what's going on. That's pretty much all at your fingertips now," Takahashi explained.
Takahashi said while many of these new systems still need a smartphone to operate, they are designed specifically to keep the phone out of drivers' hands and their eyes on the road.
"Some systems don't even utilize a touch screen anymore," Takahashi said. "Where you have the display well within the driver's line sight but you have a little dial right where your hand rests so you can control everything without really having to reach or pay that much attention on what's going on on screen."
But Nelson worries that these hands-free features might give drivers a false sense of security while on the road.
"The message is that they allow you to keep your hands on the wheel and your eyes on the road. But when you distract your mind from the task of driving it creates a more unsafe driver."
AAA has been speaking out on their safety concerns with digital dashboards to Congress and other safety stakeholders and has a message to consumers as well.
Nelson said, "Focus squarely on driving. If you must use these technologies, we encourage you to pull over and use them when the vehicle is not in motion When it's time to get back on the road, focus on driving."
AAA said they hope car manufacturers will take voluntary actions to make drivers safer without making it necessary to introduce regulations. In the meantime, they remind consumers hands free does not mean risk free and urge them to keep both their eyes-and their minds on the road.
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