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Cool or Terrifying? Mercedes Working on Google Glass App

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On: Tue, Oct 29, 2013 at 6:21PM | By: Chris Weiss

Cool or Terrifying? Mercedes Working on Google Glass App

The auto industry is still struggling with how to safely integrate smartphones and social media features into cars, and Mercedes is already looking to the next generation of consumer electronics. That next generation will include wearable technologies like smart watches and connected glasses. Instead of viewing this type of always-on technology strictly as a driving hazard, Mercedes is developing applications around it.

autonews.com reports that Mercedes is developing a voice-activated navigation app compatible with Google Glass, an augmented reality device that flashes digital information right in front of your eyes. Sounds kind of dangerous.

Johann Jungwirth, head of Mercedes' North American R&D, doesn't seem to think so. "This is an example of a seamless transition as you stay connected when you get to your car, when you drive, and when you leave your car," he told europe.autonews.com.

Problem is we're not sure that having something directly in your field of vision is all that "seamless" when it comes to driving. It's one thing to glance at a navigation screen; it's another to have it planted right in front of your pupil.

So far Mercedes is envisioning the system for use before and after driving, not during. In fact Jungwirth said specifically that the company does not want drivers using Google Glass while behind the wheel. One example of how it could be used is to send an address to the car's navigation system, then offer foot directions when the driver leaves the car. Frankly, that's a little underwhelming since you can do the same thing with a smartphone.

The fact that Mercedes is approaching the system with the intent of discouraging in-transit use is slightly encouraging, but the fact that it's so quick to embrace a potentially dangerous technology is a little disconcerting. Google Glass isn't even on the market yet, and we hope it waits until some of the wrinkles are ironed out before launching its in-vehicle app.

Even more disconcerting is the fact that autonews.com's report includes a prediction from German market research agency Puls that predicts that Google Glass apps are inevitable and may help drivers to do things like browse the Web. Though his point was that Google Glass will allow for safe access of the cloud and apps, letting drivers keep their eyes on the road (kind of), the idea of a bunch of drones having half their attention on the road while surfing, shopping, tweeting, etc. is rather scary.

Luckily for anyone worried about how personal electronics may persist in distracting drivers, cars should be driving themselves in another decade. Then, "drivers" will be free to surf, chat, watch, and whatever else is popular without endangering others on the road.

Outside of safety, another question facing automakers is whether or not devices like smartwatches and Google Glass will ever catch on. Google Glass is interesting from a technological standpoint, but does the world really want to be "tuned in" 24/7? They already carry Internet-connected smartphones and tablets around; do they really need computer hardware literally up in their faces? Automakers don't want to be left behind when it comes to popular technology, but they probably shouldn't invest too much money and research on an unknown quantity like Google Glass.


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