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Texting, driving OK in newly-equipped cars

December 11, 2010 12:00:00 AM PST
BMW is rolling out an all-new version of its X3 crossover Sport Utility Vehicle that will feature lots of amenitiesAlong with a newly-optional turbocharged engine and an advanced eight-speed automatic transmission, it also has an option for those who feel they absolutely must text behind the wheel.

"You can now see all of your e-mails and text messages on the screen," said BMW spokesman Joe Wierda. "When you're driving, you don't have to look at your screen. You can press the play button and the messages will be read aloud to you by the computer."

So far, the system only works with Blackberry-format smart phones, but Droid and iPhone applications could come along later.

Joining the integration trend, Kia has a new system called UVO, developed with help from Microsoft as a way to use gadgets in the car more easily and more safely.

UVO is voice controlled and has many functions, including asking the car to read SMS text messages to aloud.

"We are connected in our officers, in our homes. It's natural progression to make that connectivity from that element into the vehicle," said Henry Bzeih, a Kia engineer.

Reaction tends to be positive once drivers realize they can put the phone away out of reach.

These systems are fueled partly by market demand and partly by increasing regulation about distraction behind the wheel.