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Facebook updates... from behind the wheel

By Peter Vales-Dapena, senior writer


NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- The next time some jerk cuts you off on the freeway, instead of just cursing to yourself you could tell all your Facebook friends about it, all without taking your hands off the steering wheel.

If General Motors' OnStar division implements a system which is now in testing, recorded audio updates could be posted to a user's Facebook page. Drivers could also hear their friends' status updates read to them by a computerized voice.

OnStar is still deciding if it will make this service available to drivers or not.

"The company will not implement a new service simply because it's technically feasible, it has to be the right thing to do for the customer," OnStar said. "All of our technologies are rigorously evaluated prior to launch.

Americans lead increasingly connected digital lives, and a number of options giving them access to their devices behind the wheel are either now on the market or in development.

Besides the Facebook update feature, OnStar is also testing a system which would allow drivers to hear text messages read to them by the "OnStar Virtual Advisor" computerized voice. By pressing a button on the steering wheel, drivers would also be able to reply using one of four pre-written responses.

The features are similar to Ford Motor Co.'s Sync system. Ford's even more advanced version, called MyFord Touch and MyLincoln Touch, is available in 2011 Ford and Lincoln models. Besides allowing drivers to hear and reply to text messages, Ford's system also allows drivers to interact with cell phone apps for things like Internet radio and Twitter.

Critics are concerned that these systems will lead to greater driver distraction but Ford says that systems like these allow drivers to do things they're already doing anyway, such as checking text messages, while keeping their eyes on the road.

"Our research has shown that the most dangerous part of having these devices in your car is when they take your eyes off the road or your hands off the wheel," Ford spokesman Alan Hall said.

OnStar, available on nearly all of GM's Chevrolet, GMC, Buick and Cadillac cars, began as a so-called telematics service that simply allowed drivers to connect with a live operator by pressing a blue button inside the car or that would automatically summon help in the event of a crash.

GM has recently announced a number of additional services for OnStar, including a mobile phone app that allows drivers to check the status of the vehicle -- including fuel level and tire pressure -- remotely. It can also lock or unlock the doors and even start the engine. To top of page

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