Screens have been invading cars for years, growing in size and continuing to replace knobs, buttons and gauges — sometimes even providing more information than a driver wants or needs. Ford is acknowledging that sometimes, it can all be a bit too much. Ahead of April’s Distracted Driving Awareness Month, the automaker is injecting a dose of mindfulness into its redesigned-for-2020 Explorer gauge display.
For 2020, the three-row SUV is updated with new powertrains as well as more comfort and convenience features. One of them is an available 12.3-inch digital gauge screen that even Ford admits is capable of displaying an overwhelming amount of information. To combat information overload, drivers can enter the Mindful Mode setting for the screen. When activated, it pares down all data displayed on the screen ahead of the driver except fuel level and the speedometer reading.
“With more features and choices appearing on human-machine interfaces today, drivers are at real risk of becoming overwhelmed,” Ford said in a statement. “Combined with the average amount of time spent with screens outside of vehicles, Ford considers mindfulness necessary for its customers to help reduce their stress levels behind the wheel.”
It certainly couldn’t hurt, and consumers clearly think there’s a problem. A recent study by the automaker found that more than half of adults around the world want a mandatory timeout from their devices — devices that are used a lot. A Nielson report found that Americans spend half their day processing information from staring at a screen.
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Another upside of paring back the information onslaught is that it gives drivers less to be distracted by — a deadly problem that continues to rise. In a 2018 national survey by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, 64 percent of respondents said that distracted driving is a much bigger problem than it was three years previously.
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