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Car Advice


by John Cadogan

Dumb-est ever automotive accessories for your smart phone? And the winner is: the Steer Safe hands-free car kit. What could be safer than clipping your iPhone, Blackberry or Galaxy S to the rim of your steering wheel? (Answer: Turning up to interview the boss of Al Qaeda wearing an ‘I love NY’ T-shirt.)

If there’s a ‘responsible’ way to practise distracted driving – it’s a safe bet the bright sparks at Steer Safe still haven’t found it.

Above: Tweet, text, surf – and drive yourself into an early grave

Apparently, thankfully, the Steer Safe is currently just a prototype – but with the right funding it could soon be just a credit card and a few clicks away from your letterbox, via UPS. It certainly is a ‘hall of fame’ design award entry, for all the wrong reasons.

And, under existing laws, its use could actually be legal in Australia.

According to Steer Safe, the proposed product is “universal”, “effective”, and “safe when used responsibly”. Furthermore it installs in under 30 seconds, won’t hit your legs even when rotating the wheel, and won’t interfere with airbag deployment. So that’s a relief.

Above: Possibly – just possibly – something like this could get in the way of that thing you sometimes do when you drive. What’s it called again? Ummm … ‘steering’ – yeah, that’s it. Just an observation…

Purportedly, the Steer Safe also: “Overcomes top complaints inherent with all other hands-free accessories: limited viewing, bad placement, limited access, having to move eyes too much, unable to use GPS properly, can’t use speaker phone, among others.”

This marketing video would be side-splittingly funny if it weren’t fundamentally serious.


Above: Is it just me, or does anyone else think this Steer Safe doo-hickey is monumentally ill-conceived?

For starters, does anyone else think it’s unworkable to have your iPhone’s Tom Tom app doing the navigation bit while you’re punting up a twisty backroad, or even just getting from A to B in the CBD? It sure seems like a good way to dislocate your neck to me…

Then there’s the even more worrying facilitation of texting, tweeting, e-mailing and web browsing while driving. Relying on drivers to behave responsibly is a guaranteed ‘fail’ – at least to a worrying minority for whom that vital tweet is more important than the five seconds of eyes-on-the-road time it nudges aside. (Six seconds at 60km/h is 100 metres of dynamic traffic environment you haven’t seen, if instead of watching the road, you’re busy ‘friending’ someone.)

Above: Good luck with the oppy lock, big guy…

Unfortunately, the Steer Safe is just another accessory in a long line of ill-conceived in-car tech mounting kits.

This techno-foolishness trend started w-a-y back, before iPods even existed. In fact, Life Magazine has archival pictures of a hookah dashboard mount, and an electric barbeque mounted in the centre rear seating position – proving that the automotive stupidity gene has been with us since (at least) the descent from the trees.

In the modern era, this idiocy kicked off with the steering wheel laptop table.

 

Above: Wheel-mounted laptop table – what could possibly go wrong?

There are also plenty of iPad dashboard and windscreen mounts. (I just tried this: whip down to your car with your iPad and hold it up in front of the windscreen, anywhere that’s easily visible from the driver’s seat. Then visualise how many kids / pedestrians / B-doubles you could hide behind the iPad. It’s a deadset worry.)

 

Above: Some people, like the manufacturers of this fine device, call it a windscreen suction mount for an iPad. But we prefer to call it … the DIY Blind Spot

Calling this clip-on smart-phone holder a Steer ‘Safe’ is a very smart marketing call, however. It’s exactly the same ‘coercion by stealth’ strategy behind Woolworths’ decision to spend millions evolving into the ‘fresh food’ people.

If you say it long enough and loud enough, and often enough, you can make even the emptiest words become the truth. So if, in the future, you ever see an ‘I’m a Steer Safe Driver’ bumper sticker, you know to give that vehicle a wide berth on the motorway.






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