VW designs sensible car interface

Car maker Volkswagen has introduced a new user interface for its automobiles, called Gypsy. Some VW models have a large LCD screen in the center console, and will not only display the usual car information, but also knows how to talk to devices like an iPod or a Palm PDA.

This means you can view your iPod playlists on the big LCD screen, rather than squinting at the little iPod screen while you drive (uh, I mean while you are safely parked by the side of the road). It will also let you view your address book and calendar from your Palm or Treo on the big screen.

All this is nice, but I do think having a TV in the car is going to cause accidents. We need to realize that's what these "information systems" are that are showing up in so many cars--television, with the iPod channel, the Treo channel, the weather channel, the gas mileage channel, the DVD player channel, and so on. It's bad enough that half of America is already driving one-handed while talking on the phone, but now we'll be driving, talking on the phone, picking out music, looking up a phone number, and having the talking GPS/map system telling us to turn left NOW!

Right into a tree, because we forgot to update the map software.

But wait, it gets worse. It won't be long before a built in cellphone is added that allows you to access the Internet while driving (think OnStar on steroids). Not only will we be doing way too many things while driving, we'll be downloading the latest viruses while we surf the 'net. And then we will be buying virus protection for our cars! Hackers will be writing software that makes the radio controls increase the engine speed, window buttons will work backwards, and all the GPS maps will be inverted.

I think I am going to start looking for a nice, vintage '67 Mustang--no electronics, no GPS, no digital anything--just good old American analog driving machine. At least I'll have a virus free car.

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