This is so wrong that if it were April 1, I would assume it is a joke.
But it comes from a writer with Gizmodo, one of the best tech sites around, and it was published by Wired. Unless proven otherwise, I have to assume it’s just a silly human falling prey to the illusion of attention.
The author asks, “Why isn’t there a better way to text while driving?” He acknowledges (correctly) that texting while driving is dangerous and shouldn’t be done, but he simultaneously admits doing it all the time. That’s disturbing since he is admitting to knowingly putting everyone around him in danger for no good reason. The broader focus of the piece, though, is based on a much bigger misunderstanding. He seems to think that the problem could be solved with technological innovation, making it possible for people to text without looking away from the road. His personal solution:
My own strategy is to hold the phone at the top of the steering wheel while typing in the hope that my brain will still be able to recognize dangers in front of me, even if my vision is focused on a little screen on a much closer plane.
Boo. Hiss. Snarl.
In a moment of unusual clarity, he states:
It’s probably not a very sound theory and I’ve been fortunate to never have really had the opportunity to put it to the test.
Yup. It’s not sound at all. Why not check into that before posting it as a possible fix? Perhaps he was too distracted?
The problem isn’t just with where you are focusing your eyes—just because your eyes are directed at the road doesn’t guarantee that you will consciously see everything important (including me prancing in front of your car). In fact, a head-up display can make people less likely to notice unexpected events right in their field of view (see studies of pilots by Haines). If you falsely believe that you are watching the road while focusing attention on your phone or a keyboard, you might be in even greater danger.
Texting requires you to take your mind off the road, and it’s even more cognitively demanding than talking on a phone. Talking on a phone while driving is roughly equivalent to driving under the influence of alcohol. Texting is much worse. There’s a reason that hands-free phones aren’t any safer than hand-held ones. The problem isn’t with your hands — it’s with your head. Your silly, human head. When you occupy your mind with something like texting, you are not devoting your mind to the road. That means you will miss unexpected events that happen right in front of your eyes. You’ll never catch a gorilla texting while driving.