Beware: Carmakers Planning for Augmented-Reality Windshields

Future Tense
The Citizen's Guide to the Future
Jan. 17 2012 5:22 PM

Beware: Carmakers Planning for Augmented-Reality Windshields

Texting while driving is unequivocally bad. Proponents of talking on the phone while driving are losing that battle state by state. But soon there may be another in-car distraction. At the Consumer Electronics Show in Vegas recently, several automakers demonstrated augmented reality windshields and other in-car technologies.  Take Mercedes-Benz’ DICE, which Laptop magazine describes as “essentially an augmented reality-based interface that allows users to control various aspects of their vehicle’s infotainment system through simple hand movements.”

Other technological enhancements are in the works, too. A representative from Ford told CNN, “It's our job to take those computing services people are used to at 0 mph and make them available at 70 mph.” That doesn’t just mean email and text messaging; Ford is also hoping to build in ways to help diabetics monitor their insulin and allergy sufferers avoid pollen-infested places.

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Automakers emphasize that these new features are primarily voice-activated, making them safer. However, voice activation wouldn’t compensate for the “inattentional blindness” created by engaging in a conversation or other activities. Even if your hands are on the wheel, your mind can wander.

“Here’s an app I want: one that warns me when a Ford, Mercedes, Audi, or Kia—or one of those autonomous cars—is approaching so I can swerve the hell out of the way,” Amara D. Angelica writes sensibly on the Kurzweil AI blog.

Future Tense is a partnership of SlateNew America, and Arizona State University.

Torie Bosch is the editor of Future Tense, a project of Slate, the New America Foundation, and Arizona State that looks at the implications of new technologies.