The Newest Computer Is Built for the Road

Photo: The biggest debut at this years International Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas isnt coming from Apple or Microsoft. Its coming from Ford.Courtesy Ford Motor Company
MyFord Touch redesigns the in-car interface, mirroring how consumers interact with most devices in their lives using touch-sensitive buttons, touch screens, thumb-wheel controls and voice recognition.

The biggest debut at this year's International Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas isn't coming from Apple or Microsoft. It's coming from Ford.

"What the mouse did for the PC we want the MyFord Touch to do for the interior of Ford vehicles," says Mark Fields, president of the Americas for Ford Motor Co.

Ford has unveiled an 8-inch touch-screen made for a car dashboard -- putting a computer at the fingertips of its drivers. The MyFord Touch controls a state-of-the-art entertainment system, GPS for directions, even the color of the lights around the cup holders ... and it's coming to new cars within the year.

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Driving With Distractions

The new technology is exciting, but many are worried that yet another distraction could make the roads even more dangerous. Focus is hard to come by in the car -- and drivers already have their coffee to drink, their calls to make, and their kids in the back seat.

A touch screen full of new distractions could contribute to creating a treacherous environment, one where the driver is not watching the road.

Researchers have found that if you drive 60 miles per hour and glance away for just 3.5 seconds you'll have raced the length of a football field by the time you look back up.

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ABC News' Lisa Stark tested her ability to drive a curvy road while trying to type a simple text. Within seconds, she had almost run off the track.

"It doesn't take a brain scientist to understand that if you're now interacting with your computer, which is a much higher level than even texting, that you're going to have a much greater chance of damaging somebody or yourself," says Nicholas A. Ashford, a professor of technology and policy at MIT.

A Safer Option?

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Cars with the new touch screen technology also come with Ford voice command technology. Company representatives say consumers are already bringing their gadgets into cars and this new integrated set of systems is designed to make that risky behavior safer.

The idea is that drivers won't have to take their eyes off of the road, even for just those 3.5 seconds.

Still, the trend is to put more and more features in the front seat ... and that will, no doubt, distract drivers even more.