It's safer than staring down at your crotched smartphone.
When Parrot isn't busy building hover-drones, they're hard at work making cars 100% more entertaining and 40% more dangerous. The Parrot Asteroid is basically a dial-based smartphone for your car. It plugs in where your radio currently sits and provides so much more than talk shows and crappy pop songs.
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For one thing, the voice-controlled Maps application gives you turn-by-turn directions where you can see them without staring down at your crotch and missing the swerving 18-wheeler. This is about where the safety benefits of your Asteroid end. See, this thing connects to your smartphone's 3G network and provides access to web radio like Pandora, plus your handset's music collection.
There's even Musical Voice Search. We had some trouble getting it to hear us in the crowded CES hall, but by having everyone stand around the mic to block the screeching tech mavens from the Asteroid, we got it to work. Like a charm, as it happens.
Since the Asteroid hooks up to your phone, it can also be used as a hands-free talking set-up. Basically, it makes your smartphone safer by taking away the web browser and sticking it right in front of you, where it can't fall out of your lap and onto the floor. At this point, I think the safety and convenience benefits outweigh the potential for added distraction.
But Parrot had a touchscreen demo unit at CES, and that one had a browser. One version even had controls built into the wheel itself. This worried me at first (it still does, a little)- but then I stopped lying to myself. Our choice here isn't between "people driving with no distractions" and "people with smart radios". If a device like the Asteroid DOESN'T become 'standard', people will just keep on fumbling with their smartphones while they drive.
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At least the Asteroid doesn't slide around, or require you to look down at your hand to use it. I don't know if I'd call it safe, but it sure as hell beats the status quo.