It is an interesting development that GM recently decided to install Facebook status updates with their Onstar car communication system. Is this surprising? We can make couple of observations here.
First, Facebook is very much integrated into our lives, in particular with young generation. Young generation likes information immediacy and likes to connect with others anytime anywhere. So Facebook integration into the car technology is just another way of embedding ubiquitous pervasive technology in our lives. Moreover Australians spends more time in Social networks such as Facebook, twitter in number of hours per day compared to the rest of the world. So we must be heavy users of Facebook.
Second, we need to consider the history of technology evolution and use. The journey started with emails, and then came SMS and now social network sites like Facebook and Twitter. Now that our smart phones are integrated with 3G technologies, we can connect with Facebook anytime anywhere, so what’s wrong with the car technology embracing this?
Third, this is not a new technology. Already Ford with its Sync system has integrated voice enabled command technology for email access, weather updates, finding businesses nearby, navigation, emergency management with their car system. 70% of cars sold in US in the last two years have installed Ford Sync for only about $400 extra. So cars has already started to act like an information hub like iPhones, iPads etc. So GM is probably playing a catch up game to gain back their market share.
Fourth, though some of us may question the very act of Facebook status updates – they may find it silly, unnecessary and distracting. But to others these shared feeling and connectivity is very important. Often they are important for others poeple like journalists. These micro-contents often are first breaking news for natural calamity or disasters. So while driving, specially for long hours, it may be useful to have the facility to update status and respond to meesages using natural speech is attractive.
What about Australians?
On one hand, for Australians we love new technology. Ford only started to release the Ford Sync in Australia since 2009. So we need to catch up with the rest of the world using cars as information hubs. Early this year (during March & April) we superseded search engines like Google and social networks became the most visited sites by Australians. So for us, this must be exciting times.
On the other hand, we must be worried about safety issues. How safe are these tools? What about noise, music, kids shouting at the back or poor speech recognition – how much distraction will these create for drivers. the ability to use natural speech is welcoming, but how much training is required? Is there any research or data to show that these are not new distractions?
however at the end, it must be safer than using mobile phones and hands to update your status in Facebook.