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Google and Apple in race to make cars 'the ultimate mobile device'

Interactive smart dashboards are the future apparently - but how will driver distraction be avoided?

Google and Apple are engaged in an arms race, competing to create smart car dashboards that feature apps, music and navigation technology based on their mobile phones.

The Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas next week will showcase an Android collaboration already underway between Audi and Google, bringing apps to a satnav-style dashboard device, while Apple has already negotiated deals with BMW, Daimler, Mercedes and Honda to bring its iOS technology to their dashboards.

Apple say that their developments, including the voice-activated Siri, will mean drivers do not have to stop or pick up their phones illegally to make calls or send text messages, but the incorporation of ever more sophisticated and technology in cars could prove distracting for drivers.

Thilo Koslowski, an analyst at Gartner, told the Wall Street Journal: "The car is becoming the ultimate mobile device. Apple and Google see that and are trying to line up allies to bring their technology into the vehicle."

In line with this prediction, the Telegraph reports that: “GM’s chief executive recently announced that all models from 2015 onwards with 4G chips to provide constant internet connections without the need for a smartphone.”

Increased technology within cars might force legislators to tighten up on anti-distraction laws. Already in the US, some in-car screens are prevented from doing anything but GPS, and many in-car driver entertainment systems will not operate while the vehicle is moving.

Enforcement of these laws though, like mobile phone use while driving, might prove very difficult.

As we reported recently, a driver in California has been issued with a ticket for wearing another new technology - Google Glass eyewear - while driving, in what’s believed to be the first case of its kind.

Cecilia Abadie was initially pulled over for speeding on October 30, when the officer noticed the high-tech eyewear which runs Android apps and has a display next to the wearer’s eye.

The patrolman judged that the display impeded Abadie’s field of view and contravened California’s anti-distraction laws which forbid visible displays in cars, with exceptions for specified devices such as GPS units.

Fortunately for California’s cyclists the rules appear to only apply to motor vehicles. That means that cyclists usingGoogle Glass are probably in the clear for the moment.

Of course, driverless cars are currently in development, which could solve the problem of driver distraction altogether.

We reported how Volvo is to begin a large scale trial of driverless cars on public roads within three years.

The project, Drive Me, has the ambition of eliminating deadly car crashes in Sweden, according to Erik Coelingh, technical specialist at Volvo Car Group. Volvo’s aim is that no-one should be killed or seriously injured in one of their cars by 2020.

People who buy the autonomous XC90 cars will be able to forget about the controls on around 30 miles along 50 commuter routes around Sweden’s second largest city, including motorways and frequently jammed junctions. The cars will even be able to park themselves.

In a collaboration between Volvo, the Swedish Transport Administration, the Swedish Transport Agency, Lindholmen Science Park and the City of Gothenburg, there will be 100 ‘autonomous drive’ cars on the streets of Gothenburg by 2017, in an attempt to demonstrate how much safer self-driving cars are.

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