By on February 4, 2010

Ford only just announced Twitter integration for future vehicles at the Consumer Electronics Show last month, and it’s still not available on any Ford vehicles yet. Eventually though, Ford says that you’ll be able to receive and send tweets from your car using the hands-free SYNC system, a development that apparently has lawyers already counting the money they’ll make suing Ford’s pants off. The Law Offices of Barry Levinson already has a presser warning that:

Ford’s development of technology to facilitate driver computer use runs counter to the national trend, which sees authorities cracking down on distracted driving… Ford defends its Twitter technology, claiming to be making existing driver behaviors safer. But Ford’s assertion may not hold up to scrutiny. The 2006 driver distraction study found that talking and listening to conversation via cell phone was as likely to cause a crash as dialing a cell phone; if this seemingly apt analogy for the distinction between typing on a computer and talking into one holds up, it would undermine Ford’s justification for installing Twitter technology in cars.

Though this is clearly a bit of premature (press) release, it shows that Ford is wading into some dangerous water, and the sharks are circling. Besides, who the hell needs to tweet while driving?

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39 Comments on “Look Out Ford: Lawyers Gearing Up For Unreleased In-Car Twitter Capability...”


  • avatar
    Z71_Silvy

    The whole SYNC system is a lawsuit waiting to happen. Ford sells it as a safer alternative to using cell phones…when it simply is not…ergo, Ford is encouraging the practice of distracted driving.

    • 0 avatar
      Steven02

      It is bluetooth and voice recognition for your stereo and a few other things. What manufacture doesn’t offer bluetooth today with phones?

    • 0 avatar
      Z71_Silvy

      Steven…that’s not the point.

      Ford is pandering this lie that the SYNC gimmick is somehow a safer alternative to the traditional texting/tweeting/face-spacing/talking/etc that people do while driving. In doing so, they are encouraging people to drive distracted.

      Ford is saying…if you use our system, you will be safer. That is a lie.

      Study, after study, after study has proven otherwise.

  • avatar
    John Holt

    Besides, who the hell needs to tweet while driving?

    Couldn’t say it better myself. Shut up and drive.

    • 0 avatar

      Exactly. I can sleep and take a dump in the back seat while driving also, but who needs to? This rolling living room nonsense has got to stop. It’s a car for christ sake, hang up and drive.

      Maybe when they cause an accident they can tweet for help.

      John

  • avatar
    MidLifeCelica

    So this is Ford’s vision for the future?

  • avatar
    criminalenterprise

    Maybe they can make a Kindle HUD. Use paddle shifters to turn the page.

  • avatar
    Christopher

    While we’re at it — Let’s ban drivers from having conversations with passengers in the car.

  • avatar
    dwford

    Isn’t it amazing how many aspects of society depend on the stupidity of the citizenry? Politics, the lottery, retail (sale!), convenience sizes of products, lawyers, credit cards, I could go on.

    So in this case Ford develops a product to allow stupid people to broadcast the minute details of their lives (I am driving to the store), and lawyers pounce knowing that these same stupid people can’t drive and speak at the same time.

    It is never the stupid person’s fault for being stupid, though. That would be too smart.

    • 0 avatar
      LaurentCauch

      Henry Louis Mencken:
      “Nobody ever went broke underestimating the taste of…”, oh, hell, you know the rest.

    • 0 avatar

      You can’t fix stupid.

      John

    • 0 avatar
      TrailerTrash

      Its over, this life as I knew it.

      Its all about the safest allowance for the dumbest person.
      I wonder why we even allow for driving?
      Its dangerous.
      It should all be lawyered down to public transportation.

      Radios will now be disabled once a driver shifts into D.
      Volumes automatically lowered to ambulance siren level.
      All drive up windows will be shuttered.
      Cars will automatically slow once their satellite position shows them past the posted speed limit.
      Passing will be outlawed completely once the passing/accident rate is released.

      All this because people got killed when driving.

      THERE WILL BE NO LAUGHTER ALLOWED AND YOU WILL ENJOY YOURSELVES!

  • avatar
    psarhjinian

    It depends on how you use Twitter and what you use it for. I use a similar system (Google Latitude) that constantly lets me friends and/or coworkers know where I am and (optionally) what I’m doing.

    Think about it: “Highway 401 & Brock Rd: Stuck in traffic” generated automatically, or “Just got to the store, picking up milk” on the way home. “Accident ahead at DVP & 401, Will Be Late”. Twitter et al are very good at wideband, short-message content.

    You could even proxy this to fleet use for dispatching and tracking services, all without having to rely on proprietary, closed systems. Just use GPS and the Twitter API

    I don’t think Ford is advising manual tweeting while driving, but for many people (especially those used to constant contact methods) it’s a useful thing. Don’t discount it (or preemptively sue it) just because you wouldn’t use or appreciate it.

  • avatar
    Robstar

    I’m actually working on a system like psarhjinian is talking about for my motorcycle. It requires absolutely no driver attention. It consists of a netbook with solid state drive sitting in my backpack with bluetooth connecting to GPS & cellphone.

    My cellphone will send 1 SMS per minute with gps coordinates to my server at home. I’ll most likely be using google maps api to update a page that my wife can load on her laptop at home. Set it & forget it! I’m tempted to use it in the car as well so she doesn’t attempt to call me and find out “where are you at? Are you close to picking me up yet?”

    • 0 avatar
      psarhjinian

      If you’re comfortable with it, I highly recommend taking a look at the Google Latitude API. It does more or less exactly what you want, but allows you to bolt on mapping pretty easily. It’ll also fall back to aGPS when GPS is not available.

      I use it for the “wife factor” all the time. It saves on the “Where are you/Can you pick up _____ on your way/You’re not lying dead in a ditch, are you?” type calls.

    • 0 avatar
      Ernie

      I wish the iPhone had that so my mom would know when we’re running late and she can tell my son exactly where we are.

      When my wife has late meetings, I show my son that there’s NO POINT in dragging out bedtime because she’s still at the office (find my iPhone).

      psarhjinian hit the nail on the head for technology’s purpose though:
      When you forget the farking shopping list on the counter for the 75th time, someone can type it in and mail it to you!

    • 0 avatar
      psarhjinian

      I wish the iPhone had that so my mom would know when we’re running late and she can tell my son exactly where we are.

      You actually can do this with just about any smartphone, not just the iPhone. Android devices support it, so do most Symbian (Nokia, Sony-Ericsson) phones with GPS. So does the cesspit that is Windows Mobile.

    • 0 avatar
      Robstar

      psarhjinian>

      I did take a look at latitude after I read your post & it looks interesting. How does google get the data? Does it require a data plan? (I don’t have one…)

    • 0 avatar
      psarhjinian

      I think it does requite data to be useful. It gets position from the phone’s GPS provider, but the data itself is sent to Google’s servers over whatever your handset’s internet connection is.

      So no, you couldn’t use SMS to do the same. It would be useful if it did, but you’d have to live somewhere that SMS isn’t overly expensive vis a vis data.

  • avatar
    LaurentCauch

    Particularly when, as NPR reported this morning, this coveted driving demographic (7 to 19) is already abandoning Twitter as we post. Six-week electronic product cycles are any production manager’s nightmare. Alvin Toffler was indeed a prophet.

  • avatar
    Mr. Sparky

    This lawyer obviously has never used Sync.

    You can send/receive text messages with Sync. You can receive while driving and Sync just reads them out to you (which is roughly as distracting as having a passenger tell you something). As for sending, Sync has a set of pre-packaged common messages and REQUIRES you to be parked. If you try to send a text while driving, Sync tells that feature is not allowed while the car is in motion.

    If this feature is so lawsuit friendly, why isn’t he already suing over the current text feature?

  • avatar
    NulloModo

    First off, all this is is an API through which applications already on mobile devices can be used via the car controls. If someone wants to tweet/text/talk/etc which driving, they already have the capability to do it with the handset, and most likely already are. The Sync integration can’t make it any more dangerous than it already is, and might in fact make it less so.

    The current method that Sync handles texting doesn’t allow the driver to take a lot of time crafting custom messages – it just allows quick canned responses such as ‘be there soon’, ‘running late’, etc. In the future I’m sure there will be a speech-to-text update that will allow the driver to simply speak a reply, and have it converted to text on the fly, but as anyone who uses Google Voice’s transcription service knows, real time speech to text is still a ways off.

  • avatar
    Jerome10

    So, by this logic that talking is as dangerous as dialing (and I’d then assume texting/tweeting), then wouldn’t every car maker on earth be open to lawsuits because of their bluetooth hands-free integration?

    I think twitter while driving does seem stupid, but if its no less distracting than talking on a bluetooth, etc, then why would it be subject to lawsuits while bluetooth isn’t?

    Or what about nav systems? All of those companies would be sued like crazy.

    Just cuz you have something doesn’t mean you have to use it. At what point is it the responsibility of the driver and not the manufacturer (Ford, Garmin, Motorola, etc)? This protected from yourself crap is growing ridiculous.

  • avatar
    ponchoman49

    Yet another example of technology getting out of control. Way out of control. Maybe some of this technology should be used in the cars themeselves to find ways of getting better mileage and making them lighter but still safe. Or how about better reliability. Until I see every Ford model on the top of it’s game for reliability they have no right to be producing useless nonsense like this until there product is 100% sorted out of defects! How about a cure for cancer or a plethora of other horrid diseases out there. How about a solution to the huge mess we are in with an ever increasing yearly poulation vs a declining job base with resulting record levels of unemployment. Oh but that stuff isn’t fun like having stupid useless rolling livingroom crap laden cars to drive around in. Stop the madness.

  • avatar
    Contrarian

    It’s a strange day when I agree with trial lawyers, but the same thing occurred to me the instant I heard of this Ford Twitter system.

    Are they nuts?

    Ford Marketing needs to talk to Ford Legal Staff. Quick.

  • avatar
    ihatetrees

    A Kindle HUD is only the start.

    Wait until SYNC is cracked. Certain HUD video apps will give the driver a HUD.

  • avatar

    I’ll leave my opinion on driver distraction from electronic communications gadgets at this: They’re a plague.

    My beef with factory-installed geegaws like Sync, OnStar and their ilk: it’s just more s&#t to go wrong, and as they are increasingly integrated into other vehicle systems, it’s just more [email protected]#t that can make a car unrepairable and/or undriveable in the long run.

    Then there’s the perishability factor. At least you could rip out a Philco 8-track player… but what do you do with that broken/unsupported/obsolete in-dash computer system? Tear apart the insanely complicated dashboard to try to extract it? And replace it with what, at what expense? God help you if any critical vehicle systems are tied in, like A/C.

    In my biased opinion, if something can’t last a minimum of 20 years, please don’t build it into my car, thankyouverymuch.

    • 0 avatar
      Ernie

      The Bose stereo that came in my Mazda6 was a cancer . . . I’m still ripping parts out . . .

      This “integrated hvac/stereo” crap that a lot of cars have now is just frickin nuts.

  • avatar
    mikey

    I’m a 56 year old uneducated retired blue collar dude. I have figured out the basics of a computer,a cell phone I can even program my PVR.

    With the help of some of the B&B here I got the Blue Tooth working in my Impala. I find it a bigger distraction than the hand held cell phone. I went back to the old way,the phone sits in the consul,if it rings the voice mail picks up and I pull over to a safe place and deal with it.

    I do not like any distraction’s when I’m on the road. The radio is tuned to Q107 Torontos classic rock station,and I don’t f–k with the bass and treble or any other controls.

    Maybe I’m old fart, but I give 100% to my driving,I plan ahead. I think about what lane I’m in,how fast am I going,where I’m going to turn? I’m always looking around me,to see whats going on.

    Before anybody thinks it, I DONT drive slow, and yes I do make the odd mistake,and it really pisses me off when I do.

    If it was up to me…I would pull the licence of about 25% of the drivers on the road,and I would outlaw any and all distractions.

    End of rant.

    • 0 avatar
      Ion

      You can’t outlaw all distractions it’s impossible. The radio is a standard feature in almost every car and is used to relay Highway information in some places. Having the radio read you a text is no different than listening to talk radio. Having a speaker phone chat is no different than talking with a passenger.

      Then there’s the issue of what qualifies as a distraction. Sure there’s talking on the phone but you could throw adjusting the HVAC simply rolling down windows or even warning lights on there as well.

  • avatar
    Ion

    I found an old CB-Radio in my closet the other day and wondered what the legality of using it was, I doubt there’s many hands free options for it.

  • avatar
    Telegraph Road

    No need to get excited over vaporware (specifically the feature of sending tweets) that hasn’t been officially announced because the current R&D product isn’t sufficiently robust for release. Clearly, trial lawyers–and journalists–have bigger fish to fry.

  • avatar
    NulloModo

    Telegraph (and actually to Ponchoman too)

    This type of thing is ridiculously easy to program. This not having been released has nothing to do with the code not being ready. In fact, development on this feature probably took a team of two or three people all of a week at most to complete. When the APIs are all there to begin with, the voice recognition, the bluetooth communications, twitter, etc, adding a new ways to access it is stupidly easy. Setting something like this up takes about as much programming muscle as using drag and drop software to create a fan app for your band on the iPhone.

    Materials science to make lighter, stronger, affordable materials to build vehicles that are safe and fuel efficient is much tougher, and curing diseases, well, doing that is several thousand degrees away from what we are talking about here. Ford is adding these capabilities because they are great tipping point features. When someone looks at a Camry vs a Fusion and sees both are reliable, both are fuel efficient, both have nice interiors and are stylish, something like Sync can tip the scales in the Fusions favor, especially in conquest sales where a current Camry owner might not have a reason to try out something new if it weren’t for the ability to do something they couldn’t before. When you combine the potential new sales with how easy and inexpensive it is to add these features since the framework is already in place, it’s a no brainer.

  • avatar
    fred schumacher

    I’m lying in bed reading the book Traffic, and take a computer break and come across this article. Twittering while you’re driving is one of the stupidest ideas I’ve ever heard of. Just because something can be done doesn’t mean it should be.

    This idea is about as stupid as it gets. We have way too many distractions already. When you drive, drive and do nothing else. You’re moving 4,000 pounds down the road at 60 mph in the middle of traffic and Ford engineers think you should be able to Twitter? Let’s get our priorities straight.

  • avatar
    shaker

    Hey, no problem. Just make sure that you have to get a “Twitter Endorsement” on your license, with the requisite training and testing. Yeah, right.

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