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In-car Internet draws safety concerns

A Chrysler dealership sign

TEXT OF STORY

Bob Moon: There's a lot you can do to pass the time in your car these days other than listen to the radio: Talk on the phone, glance at your global positioning system to help keep you on track from point A to B.

Now, Chrysler is coming up with another option: Surf the web. The company plans to unveil a new system tomorrow for its 2009 models which will connect wirelessly to the Internet.

It's hoping the strategy will help increase what have been very disappointing sales, but as Ashley Milne-Tyte reports, safety advocates are afraid it'll cause a lot more than computers to crash.


Ashley Milne-Tyte: Chrysler's sales are down more than 19 percent this year. That's worse than General Motors or Ford.

George Magliano directs automotive industry research for North America for Global Insight. He says ideally Chrysler would boost sales by making better cars, but in the meantime, he says, introducing some cool technology could give the company an edge.

George Magliano: It might convince a few extra buyers to buy a Chrysler product instead of going somewhere else and I think it's a good idea.

Clarence Ditlow of the Center for Auto Safety says he can't believe his ears.

Clarence Ditlow: This is one of the worst ideas I've heard in a long time.

He says Internet access on the road will be just one more distraction for drivers and that'll lead to more deaths and injuries.

Rob Richard directs global sales and marketing for Mopar -- that's Chrysler's parts and accessories division. He says the technology is meant for passengers, not drivers. He says if drivers want to check email or shop online, they can pull over to do so.

Rob Richard: Our mission here is not to have drivers putting themselves or their occupants or any other drivers on the road in any danger. We are strictly looking at this as entertainment for your occupants.

Ditlow: The answer to that is who is Chrysler kidding?

Again, Clarence Ditlow of the Center for Auto Safety.

Ditlow: The vast majority of driving in this country is done in single passenger vehicles i.e. there's only the driver, so who else is there to use it but the driver?

He says manufacturers should only allow Internet access in cars when the vehicle is parked.

In New York, I'm Ashley Milne-Tyte for Marketplace.

About the author

Ashley Milne-Tyte is the host of a podcast about women in the workplace called The Broad Experience.

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