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For all of the Apple lovers, interesting news. We are now more distracted then ever before as we drive.

The tech giant’s new “CarPlay” system allows drivers to make hands-free calls, dictate text messages, and access a number of other iPhone functions; in other words, a lot of potential distractions.

“We’re very, very concerned about it,” said David Teater, senior director at the nonprofit National Safety Council. “The auto industry and the consumer electronics industry are really in an arms race to see how we can enable drivers to do stuff other than driving.”

Apple (AAPL) unveiled the system at the Geneva Auto Show this week, and the first CarPlay-equipped vehicles will debut later this year from Volvo, Ferrari and Mercedes-Benz. A number of other major automakers, including GM (GM), Ford (F), Toyota (TM) and Honda (HMC), will begin offering CarPlay “down the road,” Apple said.

Automakers have been offering smartphone integration systems specific to certain makes and models in recent years, but Apple’s announcement represents a step towards standardizing the technology across the industry and increasing the range of applications available to drivers.

The news follows an announcement from Google (GOOG) in January that it is partnering with Audi, GM, Honda and Hyundai to bring its Android operating system to cars starting this year.

Google says its platform will “make technology in the car safer and more intuitive.” Apple, similarly, says CarPlay increases safety by allowing drivers to keep their eyes on the road while accessing their phones via Siri, the company’s voice assistant software.

“IPhone users always want their content at their fingertips and CarPlay lets drivers use their iPhone in the car with minimized distraction,” Greg Joswiak, Apple’s vice president of iPhone and iOS product marketing, said in a statement.

But some evidence suggests that talking in hands-free mode while driving is just as unsafe as driving while holding a phone. The problem is so-called “cognitive distraction,” which occurs when drivers have their eyes on the road but their minds focused elsewhere.

In a study released last year by the Texas A&M Transportation Institute, the reaction times of drivers doubled whether they were texting manually or dictating their messages through voice-to-text applications like Apple’s Siri or Vlingo for Android.

Researchers at the University of Utah reported last year that talking on a hand-held phone is only slightly more distracting than talking on a hands-free phone, with both deemed a “moderate” risk. Voice-to-text applications like Siri were even more distracting, deemed an “extensive” risk.

“The idea that people want to be on their phones, and therefore let’s give them a way to do that — that’s not putting safety first, that’s putting convenience and the desire to be in touch first,” said Bruce Hamilton, manager of research and communications at the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safetey.

 

 

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