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Toyota and Microsoft Rethink Distracted Driving

Remember way back when we had only five “screens” or fields of vision to constantly scan for obstacles and dangers while driving? You may remember learning about them in driver’s ed about 20 years ago; they are the front windshield, rear window, rearview mirror and two side mirrors.

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Today, we have to scan those five screens, along with an ever-increasing number of additional ones such as a multimedia screen, a head-up display, a backup camera’s image, navigation or internet radio on a smartphone screen and more.

Toyota and Microsoft are joining to figure out where we crossed the line from trying to help drivers, to hurting them.

Enter the Driver Awareness Research Vehicle, which debuted at the 2013 Los Angeles Auto Show. This concept aims to help a driver avoid many distractions by presenting them before the person even enters the car.

Using a camera and screen on the vehicle’s side windows, DARV can “see” you approaching the car and determine who you are and who’s approaching the car with you. For example, if you’re walking to the car with your child, DARV might ask if you’re heading straight to day care this morning or first stopping for your morning latte. It might offer traffic alerts along your drive route and suggested route changes, and it could let you know that you’re running low on fuel and will need to plan to stop for gas. DARV may also then engage your child in a game of how quickly he or she can buckle their own seat belt.

Recent advancements in technology are being thrown into vehicles left, right and center in a seeming effort for one manufacturer to try to outdo the next (voice-to-text Facebook updates, anyone?) While the Toyota and Microsoft DARV car is only a concept, I think, well, I hope, we’re going to see more of this trend toward reining in technology and using it to help simplify rather than complicate our lives in the car.

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