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"I look forward to being murdered with one of these": Cyclists condemn "distracting" Mercedes in-car technology

The now-deleted tweet showing a driver with a vast array of screens and gadgets in front of him raised huge concern among cyclists on social media

A tweet from Mercedes-Benz USA advertising the in-car technology in its S-Class range has caused uproar on the social media platform, with numerous people suggesting that the potential for distraction could put cyclists and pedestrians in danger. 

mercedes benz-usa tweet 2.PNG

The tweet, that has now been deleted by the Mercedes-Benz USA account, said: "With up to five screens, OLED displays, and 3D displays with real-time eye tracking, the new S-Class has no shortage of bright ideas"; however thousands of people were quick to point out the potential issues, with Pompey Cyclist saying: I look forward to being murdered with one of these in the near future." 

Dr Anna added: "I just see dead pedestrians and cyclists. Mercedes sees money."

It's long been suggested that in-car technology such as touchscreens could be leading to more distracted driving; A 2020 study by the UK road safety charity IAM RoadSmart found that in-vehicle 'infotainment systems' impair a driver's reaction times behind the wheel 'more than alcohol and cannabis use' according to the results. 

While Mercedes' example of in-car technology appears to be a particular cause for concern, other companies are trying to put tech to good use in an effort to increase safety for cyclists. Back in January, a proposed bicycle-to-vehicle communication standard backed by Trek, Specialized, Bosch and Ford was said to have reached a "critical milestone", with Ford's vice president Chuck Gray calling on more business leaders to join the initiative to advance the technology and set a definitive standard. 

Still, opponents argue that the technology could increase danger for cyclists, as drivers could start putting too much trust in technology that may not be failsafe. 

Arriving at road.cc in 2017 via 220 Triathlon Magazine, Jack dipped his toe in most jobs on the site and over at eBikeTips before being named the new editor of road.cc in 2020, much to his surprise. His cycling life began during his students days, when he cobbled together a few hundred quid off the back of a hard winter selling hats (long story) and bought his first road bike - a Trek 1.1 that was quickly relegated to winter steed, before it was sadly pinched a few years later. Creatively replacing it with a Trek 1.2, Jack mostly rides this bike around local cycle paths nowadays, but when he wants to get the racer out and be competitive his preferred events are time trials, sportives, triathlons and pogo sticking - the latter being another long story.  

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47 comments

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Jem PT | 3 years ago
1 like

I recall (and it wasn't that long ago) that SAAB (oh, maybe it was a while ago then!) had a function on their cars  (a good old-fashioned switch) that turned all the instrument lights at night, apart from the speedo. This was added on the grounds of safety. We can learn a lot from history.

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fincon1 replied to Jem PT | 2 years ago
0 likes

It's true, they did, and very useful it was too.

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andystow | 3 years ago
0 likes

Menu | Electrical | Lighting | Exterior | Indicators | Right | Activate | Until turn completed.

Haha, just kidding, Mercedes drivers won't even notice the stalk has been removed!

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hawkinspeter replied to andystow | 3 years ago
1 like
andystow wrote:

Menu | Electrical | Lighting | Exterior | Indicators | Right | Activate | Until turn completed.

Haha, just kidding, Mercedes drivers won't even notice the stalk has been removed!

Don't forget the:

Menu | Exterior | Bodywork | Front | Wing | Left | Mirror | Adjust angle

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massive4x4 | 3 years ago
0 likes

I suggest that all those on this thread go look up actual police stats for causes of accidents. These would tell you that distracted drivers (by phones, anything in the car) are responsible for about 1% of fatal accidents.

"Looked didn't see" and "failed to predict the path of another vehicle" are the most common.

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TheBillder replied to massive4x4 | 3 years ago
10 likes

Yeah, because everyone actually with head in phone / touchscreen / info-in-car-multiplex-cinema is 110% upfront with the police after the collision, so those numbers are terrifically reliable.

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wtjs replied to TheBillder | 3 years ago
1 like

so those numbers are terrifically reliable

An insightful comment, particularly in relation to these surveys, figures etc. quoted by various dodgy geezers on here. If offenders can get away with lying, they will try- and you can get away with anything with police who accept as vindication 'I didn't see him', 'I didn't mean to do it', 'it was only a momentary loss of concentration', 'cyclists must move out of my way and if they don't I'm entitled to cross unbroken white lines anywhere'...(and I'm proud to say Lancashire Constabulary thought of this first, unless any of you have evidence that they were forestalled) 'we must have confirmatory video from the offending vehicle'.

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jh2727 replied to massive4x4 | 3 years ago
2 likes

I think you'll find it is "Looked didn't see" and "failed to predict the path of another vehicle came out of knowhere" that are the most commonly cited. But that's just semantics.

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Rik Mayals unde... | 3 years ago
2 likes

My boss bought a new Range Rover Vogue a couple of years ago, he sold it soon afterwards. Everything was touchscreen, it was a nightmare to operate controls when driving. Even the heating system and heated seats were operated via the touchscreen. It had a wobble when he left London and put the heated seats on full blast. He had to drive all the way home to Lancashire with his bum on fire. Why this is better than a simple switch is beyond me. 

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fuzzywuzzy replied to Rik Mayals underpants | 3 years ago
1 like

It's better for the manufacturers - touch screens are far more flexible than having lots of switches. It's also software updateable (should the need arise).

But yeah not better for drivers, especially if settings aren't on the main screen and you need to go into menus - at that point you may as well just be texting on your phone.

I guess voice control would help significantly but every implementation of that so far just seems a way to infuriate the driver rather than make the controls more accessible.

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brooksby replied to fuzzywuzzy | 3 years ago
5 likes
fuzzywuzzy wrote:

It's better for the manufacturers - touch screens are far more flexible than having lots of switches. It's also software updateable (should the need arise).

"I'm sorry but the software in your motor car will not be supported after July 2025 - please upgrade to the new model of Mercedes"

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randonneur | 3 years ago
5 likes

where's my glasses
I need them to read that screen.
This is a complete disaster for cyclists.

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hawkinspeter | 3 years ago
9 likes

Another reason why touchscreens are a bad idea is that they're almost impossible to use for the visually impaired. At least with ordinary car controls, they can include braille on them.

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eburtthebike replied to hawkinspeter | 3 years ago
4 likes
hawkinspeter wrote:

Another reason why touchscreens are a bad idea is that they're almost impossible to use for the visually impaired. At least with ordinary car controls, they can include braille on them.

  I think people may have missed that one.

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PRSboy | 3 years ago
4 likes

I'm baffled as to what on earth people want to do in cars.  The climate control is set to 22c or whatever and looks after itself.  The only thing I can imagine wanting to do is change radio station or playlist.

Surely passengers could download an app which could control the functions of a modern car that they need.

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brooksby | 3 years ago
2 likes

Wasn't that dashboard in an episode of Star Trek...?

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Colin Peyresourde replied to brooksby | 3 years ago
1 like

"Make it so...."

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Jem PT | 3 years ago
11 likes

The big difference between physical controls in a car and touch-screens, is that pohysical controls are always in the same place and so with familiarity can be used without averting attention from the road.

Touch-screens with multiple menus etc. require the eyes to be focusing on the screen to be sure what menu you are in and whereabouts on the screen you should be touching to, say, adjust the heating by a couple of degrees.

Vehicles do not need this amount of complexity built-in and if using a hand-held phone is deemed to be a dsitraction, I cannot for the life of me see why touch-screens in cars are any different?

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Bishop0151 replied to Jem PT | 3 years ago
2 likes

I like my tech, from my bike computer, my sports watch, bluetooth earbuds, smartphone and chromebook.

But my car sterio is basic, deliberatly so. I have phsical button and dials that I can opperate without taking my eyes from the road. I have bluetooth added so that I can connect my phone and play music. But I pick a playlist or station and then put the phone in a pocket and live with my choice. I won't faff about with the phone or a distracting multi media center while driving.

How the hell are they allowed to build these distractions into a car and pass safety stadards?

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Velophaart_95 | 3 years ago
4 likes

I'm completely against these massive infotainment screens. Good driving requires full concentration on the road ahead - not these devices. I remember having a test drive in a Focus, and found it slightly distracting.....

If it's not people on phones, it's them meddling with the screens......

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pedalster | 3 years ago
5 likes

The big red virtual button that bleeps, You are exceeding the 30 mph speed limit, is not one of the options. My main gripe is that drivers of these 'advanced' set of cars have very little awareness of how quick they are going on a road - down to the isolation/bubble they are in when driving these things. Driver training is also p poor, to the extent that drivers are not trained, just put through a method of achieving a licence.

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iandusud | 3 years ago
7 likes

It stikes me that touchscreen controls require you to take your eyes off the road. Controls on the steering wheel or on stalks are tactile and once you are familiar with them don't require you to look away from the road. Touchscreens are clearly an unecessary distraction and should only be activated for controls that can be used when parked. 

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RedRocket replied to iandusud | 3 years ago
0 likes

Don't agree. The touchscreen in my VW has big icons and is easy to scroll, more eyes on the road rather than looking for small buttons.

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Hirsute replied to RedRocket | 3 years ago
10 likes

Why did you ignore the comment "once you are familiar with them don't require you to look away from the road." ?

Reagardless of the size of your icons, you still need to look so you will not being looking at the road as much.

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Kendalred replied to RedRocket | 3 years ago
10 likes
RedRocket wrote:

Don't agree. The touchscreen in my VW has big icons and is easy to scroll, more eyes on the road rather than looking for small buttons.

You're either looking at the road, or at the screen - it doesn't matter how big the sodding icons are. Unless of course you are a chameleon with eyes that move independently of each other?

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OldRidgeback replied to RedRocket | 3 years ago
4 likes

You might want to read up the TRL's reports into driver distraction then. Anything that takes your attention away from driving is a distraction.

The TRL has been pretty clear that touchscreens provide a greater distraction than the vast majority of controls they've replaced. 

Driver distraction isn't new, we're just more aware of its dangers now. An old friend of mine was changing the tape in his Ford Cortina as he drove home and only looked away for a moment to do so. He ploughed into the back of another Corina as the traffic on the dual carriageway had ground to a halt. This was in the 80s. Both cars were wrecked, but neither he nor the driver of the other car suffered injuries beyond a few bruises.

Don't kid yourself about driver distraction.

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Captain Badger replied to RedRocket | 3 years ago
0 likes
RedRocket wrote:

Don't agree. The touchscreen in my VW has big icons and is easy to scroll, more eyes on the road rather than looking for small buttons.

How many facking buttons do you need???

Everything I need to drive is on the stalks, and I know where they are without looking.

Anything else that isn't to do with driving is by definition a distraction and needs to be dispensed with. Touch screens are unnecessary - Sat navs should be set up before switching the engine on.....

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Jenova20 replied to iandusud | 3 years ago
2 likes
iandusud wrote:

It stikes me that touchscreen controls require you to take your eyes off the road. Controls on the steering wheel or on stalks are tactile and once you are familiar with them don't require you to look away from the road. Touchscreens are clearly an unecessary distraction and should only be activated for controls that can be used when parked. 

Germany actually attempted to ban some Teslas from the roads there because of the amount of distracting touch screens. I think they may have reversed course on this now, since there's a Tesla factory being built there...

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AlsoSomniloquism replied to Jenova20 | 3 years ago
2 likes

Was about to mention Tesla's as a prime example. They have had to revise the UI several times because basic functions that used to be easy to get to were several screens into the menus. Yes, it might be sleek looking compartment but if you have to swipe a screen to get to a menu to turn on Window Wipers, you are distracted from the road. 

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Jenova20 replied to AlsoSomniloquism | 3 years ago
2 likes
AlsoSomniloquism wrote:

Was about to mention Tesla's as a prime example. They have had to revise the UI several times because basic functions that used to be easy to get to were several screens into the menus. Yes, it might be sleek looking compartment but if you have to swipe a screen to get to a menu to turn on Window Wipers, you are distracted from the road. 

Ah, yes. It's coing back to me now. The example used was something along the lines of the lane assist function needing to be configured before it could be used. Obviously not something you should be dealing with on busy roads since it's hugely distracting.

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