Corby's rant: Apple and Google invade our cars

The world’s two biggest –supposedly benevolent – internet monsters have set their sights on invading the humble automobile, and the results will be dire, warns Stephen Corby

Octopus with tentacles around a car

Apple and Google are at war for the weak hearts and overloaded minds of the geeks who have inherited the Earth.

Both of them have always pretended to be nice, at heart, with Google's "don't be evil" slogan and Apple's "don't hate us, look how beautiful our stuff is" philosophy, but at heart they're both as rapaciously evil and gallopingly greedy as Rupert Murdoch. Steve Jobs was the kind of bloke who regularly parked in handicapped spaces while handicapped people make handicapped faces. He also refused to register his car and simply bought a new SL Benz every time his current one got towed.

No doubt he had Apple's latest plans to take over the world of in-car entertainment all drawn up before he died (if he actually died, I'm convinced his brain is still in some special soup at Apple, connected to the mainframe). Apparently having your iPhone on you at all times is not enough, and you need to be interacting with it while you're driving as well, regardless of how unsafe that is for people who struggle to concentrate on the task of operating a car as it is.

And so we have CarPlay, launched at the Geneva show, with Ferrari, Volvo and Mercedes-Benz. It's being sold as Apple just wanting to make your life more seamlessly wonderful, but in reality, as with everything these days, it's about being able to throw advertising at you. Start streaming iTunes Radio in the car and they'll have you. Use Apple Maps as your default satnav (and good luck to you if you try) and there'll no doubt be commercials for you there too, eventually.

Research has already shown, however, that this Siri system - which is all voice controlled and will read you text messages and emails and allow you to write back - is just as dangerous as actually holding your phone and trying to type an SMS with one hand on the wheel. And we've all seen people doing that. Usually idiots.

The Texas Transportation Institute recently found that using voice controls was just as dangerously distracting as using your fingers. Both methods impact driver response times equally, but using Siri meant they were more likely to make mistakes and have to spend more time interacting as a result.

A similar study from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety in the US found that hands-free kits of any kind increase mental strain and cause reaction times to slow.

Basically, drivers spend less time on driving, and that leads to more accidents.

A world in which we're all listening to, and interacting with, emails - and no doubt Facebook and Twitter - while driving is not a safer world, it's just a more annoying one.   

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Stephen Corby

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