Thanks to the teamwork of Ford and Amazon, Floridians now can use the Amazon Echo, Echo Dot, or Amazon Tap “smart” speakers in their homes to check automobile system information (how’s the fuel/battery level, for instance), lock or unlock the car, or turn it on and off.
And come summer, you will be able to talk to your Amazon Echo assistant while driving. Echo’s assistant, dubbed Alexa, will respond to commands to give weather, news, or traffic reports; play music; put an item on a shopping list; or get directions and have the destination entered in your car’s navigation system.
You will be able to talk to Alexa because of a Sync 3-enabled system in Ford’s Focus Electric, C-Max Energi, and Fusion Energi models, and additional Ford models soon will have Alexa riding shotgun, too.
Your connection to the Echo system in your home will allow you to sit at a red light at the Gatlin Boulevard entrance ramp to I-95 in Port St. Lucie and check the contents of your smart refrigerator. What you can do will depend on how smart your house is. Possibilities range from opening and closing the garage door to turning lights on or unlocking the front door for your teenager, who lost her key again.
You will be able to do all this without taking your hands off the steering wheel, doing away with a lot of distracted driving. Right?
Will Echo Cause More Distracted Driving or Less?
Connecting a smart-home system like Echo to your car can have a downside. Focusing on Alexa can take your mind off the road, and distracted driving can kill.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says 2015 broke a five-decade trend of decreasing highway deaths. There was a 7.2 percent rise in traffic fatalities. Crashes killed 35,092 people, and that was the biggest single-year increase since 1966. NHTSA says 1 in 10 of those fatalities involved distracted driving.
Distracted driving took a toll on Florida in 2015, too. The year brought the state 45,740 crashes and 214 deaths.
The sources of the problem often are smartphones (particularly texting), navigational devices, and entertainment systems. Yes, Alexa will be able to operate those electronic devices while you keep both hands on the wheel, but focusing on Alexa takes your mind off the road.
The take-away here is that if talking to your smartphone is dangerous, the same risk arises when you are chatting with Alexa.
Conversely, Ford and Amazon contend that linking Sync 3-enabled vehicles and Alexa will keep drivers’ hands on the wheel and save lives. There is truth in that argument, but it’s too soon to tell how much.
Rosenthal, Levy, Simon & Ryles Can Help If You’ve Been Hurt in a Crash
It really doesn’t matter to an injured person whether the car that hit them was being driven by someone distracted by chatting with a passenger or by someone telling Alexa what to do. Regardless of the causes of distracted driving, it is negligence.
If you have been hurt by the negligence of another driver in West Palm Beach, Port St. Lucie, or another South Florida community, contact Rosenthal, Levy, Simon & Ryles for a free consultation on your legal options.