“Smart” Watches and Driving Safety: A Good or Bad Combination?

With Apple having just announced its forthcoming “Apple Watch,” the smart watch trend is really gearing up. Smart watches are poised to offer their wearers an abundance of functions, including measuring heart rate, email notifications, and even roadway navigation input.  But what will these devices mean for driving safety?

On the one hand, there may be some positive safety features.  For example, Mercedes is releasing a smart watch app to report motor vehicle collisions their owners come across, and receive real-time input regarding traffic jams and other road hazards ahead.  BMW’s system is designed to let owners of their electric vehicles monitor the battery status and driving range without having to actually be in the vehicle.

On the other hand, smart watches have the potential to reduce roadway safety as well.  Even with high-fidelity displays, drivers will still have to look directly at a pretty small screen to get some of the information presented to them- instead of looking at the road.  Also, any alerts the systems provide drivers could surprise them, and divert their attention away from the roadway.  Even activating features by touching the screen means that a driver would then have only one hand on the steering wheel- not an effective situation to be in if an emergency event occurs.

But it’s early days with smart watches- there is a lot that is unknown at this point about their net effects on driving safety.  Fortunately, the research community is gearing up to get the answers we need.  In the meantime, it appears that there will be no shortage of smart watches that will be available to drivers of all ages.  It’s about time…and safety…