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High-tech functions in cars can be major distraction

September 8, 2011 12:00:00 AM PDT
More and more carmakers are incorporating access to social media and the Web right from your car. But is it such a good idea? We teamed up with Consumer Reports to take a closer look at dashboard distractions.

One commercial for the Chevy Cruze touts real-time updates from Facebook using the OnStar system as you're driving down the road.

OnStar is just one of the ways manufacturers are helping you stay in touch.

With Audi's new Audi Connect system, you can check weather reports and gas prices even when driving. Ford's Sync System can read text messages to you.

"More and more cars allow you to stay connected, but that's a problem if it leads to more driver distraction," said Tom Mutchler of Consumer Reports.

Another source of distraction is complicated controls. For example, on one BMW, Consumer Reports found that tuning in a radio station is a six-step process.

"You push the controller knob to the left. Then, you rotate the knob up to FM. Push the knob down to confirm. Rotate the knob up to manual. Push the knob down to confirm. That gives you the tuning screen. Turn the knob until you get to the station you want," Mutchler said.

Even in a parked car, this task takes a full 10 seconds. Voice controls can help. And it's easier to use the vehicle controls rather than the small buttons and screens on your iPod or cellphone.

"Still, it's no excuse for manufacturers to make otherwise simple controls over-complicated," Mutchler said.

You want your focus to be on the road where it belongs.


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