Forget the mobile phone and the vanity mirror, for according to the UK's Institute of Advanced Motorists, the next big in-car distraction is likely to be the internet dashboard, or 'infotainment system'.
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Intel and Google are both looking into interactive dashboards, including 10-inch screens above the gearstick which will show 3D maps, web pages and even videos. Other similar systems are being previewed at trade shows this week, including the Detroit Motor Show.

“If drivers were tempted to use the internet or watch videos on the move, the results could be deadly,” said Peter Rodger, IAM Chief Examiner.

“If it’s not acceptable to read a novel while driving, how can it be acceptable to read a multimedia display? Just how much information can a car driver absorb and still drive responsibly?

“There is a fine line between providing useful extra information and causing a dangerous distraction. This system appears to cross that line.

“Viewing things like restaurant reviews and venue information online while driving should be illegal, and it should be an offence to buy, sell, fit and transmit information for this particular use.”

The systems are not designed to be used on the move, but not all systems will be impossible to use while driving. One (unnamed) car manufacturer’s version, due out this March, bears the notice: 'Please only use the online services when traffic conditions allow you to do so safely'.

“It should be made clear that the system should only be used when the vehicle is parked,” Mr Rodger commented.