“Update Facebook Status”: Use Your Blinker, Genius!


If the already perfect storm of baffling high-tech driving distractions weren’t enough, GM’s OnStar adds Facebook to your mix of thought options to consider while changing lanes.

Though still in an experimental stage, the “hands-free” (safety first, right?) social media access system could be available to some subscribers as early as the end of the month. (OnStar subscriptions start at $199 a year.) Using it, a driver could update his or her Facebook status simply by speaking out loud (i.e., Scott Adelson is driving). Users will also be able to listen to Facebook newsfeeds and messages read to them in a friendly, let’s say sultry, OnStar voice: Hello Scott”¦ Bambi wants to be your friend. (Ahem. I digress”¦)

But wait, there’s more! The Bluetooth-based system will also read text messages and let a driver reply using one of four pre-set replies with a simple touch of a steering-wheel button. I’m not sure if you’ll be able to create your own reply. Maybe something like “Crashing my car, not LMAO!”

GM (OnStar) has been engaged in a losing battle with Big Three rival Ford Motor Co. (Sync), for the hearts and mind of the younger tech-savvy set. According to the The Detroit News, GM has recently announced a partnership with Google to link smart phones to OnStar so subscribers can search for directions by voice and download maps. The company has also introduced a new “OnStar mobile app” that allows drivers to remotely unlock doors, start the ignition, check tire pressure and fuel economy, and more.

Meanwhile, Ford’s Sync system is moving ahead with its own plans, says the Detroit Free Press. The next generation of Sync, will also allow users to read and reply to text messages. And while Sync won’t hook up with Facebook, later this year it’ll start to plug into Twitter, Pandora and Stitcher.

Ironically, to me at least, OnStar was originally developed for safety. And though it doesn’t take a Ph.D. in Psychology to figure out that this stuff will cause problems behind the wheel, I’m going to quote one anyway. Driver distraction expert David Strayer, Ph.D., writing for Car Talk: “…these systems neglect the cognitive sources of distraction. Over a decade of research has documented that interacting with systems like this can divert attention from driving and result in substantial impairments. Simply put, you cannot pay attention to two different things at the same time.  If you are updating the status of your Facebook account, you are not paying attention to the road.” He adds, “The driver next to you may be updating their Facebook account and their reactions will be about as bad as if they were drunk.”

Nice, huh? Well, so much for technology making our world a safer place. Can’t wait to see this update: “Facebook Username; Just hit a tree.”

Image: Open Box

Scott Adelson

Scott Adelson is EcoSalon's Senior Editor of HyperKulture, a monthly column that explores opening cultural doors to initiate personal change. He is also the author of InPRINT, which reviews and discusses books, new and old. You can reach him at scott@adelson.org.