Hi-Tech On The Highway

Scott Mason, operations manager for a Los Angeles radio station, is a true digital citizen. When he leaves the office he pockets a palm sized computer and slides into a sport utility vehicle James Bond might envy, CBS News Correspondent Bob Orr reports.

"I have the navigation system, FM/AM radio, twelve CD changer, hands free cellular phone, two way radios, and a scanner. Oh yeah! I also have a radar detector," Mason says.

He is armed and ready for L.A.'s traffic combat with a navigation system as his guiding star.

With satellite-based navigation systems increasingly available on cars, getting from point A to point B is easy without a map.

But navigation systems are competing for space in today's high-tech vehicles. A Ford Minivan will tell you if you're going to back into something, a Mercedes can peer out in front to tell you if you're going to run into something, and a Cadillac arms you with military night-vision so you can see in the dark.
The trend worries Ricardo Martinez, the government's Chief Auto Safety Regulator. "One of the central questions is do these help you drive, or do they drive you to distraction?"

Martinez says if drivers are distracted visually, then they are probably distracted mentally, "What we've learned is that these distractions really can create life threatening conditions fairly easily."

Martinez does have praise for in-car safety enhancements like the GM ON-STAR system, which can call an operator for help after an accident.

"As soon as the air bags deploy," says GM spokesman Ed Zeller, "the system automatically contacts the ON-STAR center. ON-STAR calls the car to check to see if the occupants are okay or not."

Still, technology junkies like Scott Mason want even more, "It would be nice if I were able to talk to (the navigation system) and it would recognize my voice."

Get ready because soon, it will.

  • CBSNews.com staff CBSNews.com staff

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