Can Google Design a Car Touchscreen That Isn’t a Dangerous Distraction?

Automak­ers are increas­ing­ly inte­grat­ing touch­screens into vehicles—to the dis­may of safe-dri­ving advo­cates, who jus­ti­fi­ably fear peo­ple are already too dis­tract­ed by phone calls and texts while dri­ving.

Tech com­pa­nies are respond­ing by design­ing what they say are safer ways for cus­tomers to stay glued to their favorite apps and online ser­vices behind the wheel.

Google’s (GOOG) Android is work­ing on an inter­face to make it safer and more user-friend­ly through a plat­form called Android Auto, which allows maps, music, and per­son­al orga­ni­za­tion func­tions on your phone to be accessed through a larg­er screen in the car. Fol­low­ers are describ­ing it as Android’s answer to Apple’s (AAPL) CarPlay.

“Peo­ple don’t want to check their phones at the doors when they get behind the wheel,” Patrick Brady, Google’s direc­tor for engi­neer­ing of Android, says in a pro­mo­tion­al video released at the Google I/O devel­op­er con­fer­ence this week. With Android Auto, “you get the best of both worlds. You get the con­nect­ed apps and ser­vices on your smart­phone, with the phys­i­cal con­trols that were opti­mized for dri­ving in your car.”

Google design man­ag­er Hen­ry New­ton-Dunn says the prob­lem now is that cars are “fun­da­men­tal­ly dis­con­nect­ed vehi­cles.” This leads many dri­vers to jug­gle their phones while driving—a bad idea, since the screens are too small and the inter­face and menus too com­pli­cat­ed to nav­i­gate.

“We had to take an expe­ri­ence that was designed for a smart­phone and break it down to its bare essen­tials,” Brady says in the video, which shows dri­vers tap­ping on the screen to use Google maps and using voice con­trols to set reminders on their phones.

 

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