Digital dashboards allow drivers to tap an app without reaching for cellphone

AAA warns drivers technology may not be safe

By Eryka Washington - Investigative Reporter

ORLANDO, Fla. - We all know reaching for a smartphone while driving is a recipe for disaster, but what if all the apps you needed on your phone were already built into your car?

[ WEB EXTRA: Click here for a list of manufacturers' digital technology]

Once just a perk of the luxury vehicle, digital dashboards with apps that allow you to update your status or order a pizza are now hitting mainstream cars.

If Shamil Shalwani wants to keep up with his favorite team while he's on the road, he only has to consult his car.

"When I first saw the feature of the new apps inside the car, I was pretty impressed," said Shalwani.

Thanks to his car's digital dashboard, Shalwani said he feels like he's become a safer driver.

"Before I got this car it was very hard to keep the phone out of my hand," he said.

Mark Takahashi, an automotive editor at, said that's the point.

"Give drivers the freedom they're looking for while keeping the phone out of drivers' hands and their eyes on the road," said Takahashi. "Some systems don't even utilize a touchscreen, where you have the display well within the driver's line sight, but you have a little dial right where your hand rests so you can control everything without really having to reach or pay that much attention to what's going on on the screen."

But Jake Nelson, of AAA, said he worries the hands-free features might give drivers a false sense of security. 

"When you distract your mind from the task of driving, it creates a more unsafe driver," said Nelson.

AAA has been speaking out on its safety concerns with digital dashboards to Congress but is also taking its message of caution directly to the consumer.

"Focus squarely on driving. If you must use these technologies, we encourage you to pull over and use them when the vehicle is not in motion. When it's time to get back on the road, focus on driving," said Nelson.

As for Shalwani, he said he can't imagine driving without a digital dash.

"I wanted something more convenient. I wanted something that would get the phone out of my hand, per se, and I really think that they did a good job," said Shalwani.

AAA said they hope car manufacturers will take voluntary actions to make drivers safer without making it necessary to introduce regulations.

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