A First Look at GM’s Prototype Facebook Interface

Facebook updates while driving to work

When I heard that General Motors was testing a new feature that allows drivers to post Facebook status messages while driving, I couldn’t wait to try it out. So I called GM, explained that I have a blog with almost a dozen regular readers, and asked if they’d let me try the system out for a few days in exchange for some free publicity. Naturally, they jumped at this opportunity and offered me a 48-hour test drive.

Tuesday, after work: I stop by the dealership to pick up my vehicle, a Chevy Impala with the prototype social networking software installed. After programming in my login information (a tedious process, but one that only needs to be done once) and getting a brief tutorial on how to use the system, I’m all set. As soon as I pull out of the dealership, I dictate my first (admittedly unimaginative) update: “Hi! This is my first Facebook update from my car”.

My first Facebook update using the automotive interface.

Apparently the speech recognition leaves something to be desired. With some practice, though, I eventually manage to get the system to understand me consistently, although it’s not very good at punctuation.

Wednesday morning: I try out the basic system features during my morning drive to work. I love it! It really eases the boredom of a long commute. The miles just fly by as I post a couple dozen updates; I’m sure my friends are thrilled, too, because I’m posting more updates in an hour than I normally do in a week.

Facebook updates while driving to work

Facebook’s geotagging feature works, but it’s kind of a pain to use. You can check in at a predefined Place, but the interface requires that you select and confirm the Place you want to check in to. And if no appropriate Place has been defined, you need to go through the additional step of creating one. I checked in to a couple Places during my test drive, but I’m not really sure it’s worth the effort.

facebook updates from my car

My only other complaint is that the system doesn’t include an integrated camera, so if you want to post a picture of something, you still need to use your cell phone.

facebook update from a car

Thursday morning: Time to switch gears (so to speak) and try the Twitter interface. Tweeting is a little more difficult than posting a Facebook update — once you reach the 140 character limit, your only choices are to tweet what you’ve dictated so far or start over; however, Twitter’s tagging and geotagging features make it easy to strike up conversations with nearby drivers.

twitter transcript from a car

Unfortunately, I ran out of time before I got a chance to try out more of the Twitter features (I had to deal with a few unexpected dents in the car’s hood before returning it to the dealership Thursday night). Overall, though, I think social networking software for cars is a great idea, and I can’t think of anything that might possibly go wrong.

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26 thoughts on “A First Look at GM’s Prototype Facebook Interface

  1. Oh great, even MORE updates from ‘those’ people who all ready give way too much info! I can see a lot of these posts “Traffic sux, I have to PEE!”
    Me? Well, if I had this option there may be a few curse words posted by accident. I have 21 stop lights in my 10 mile commute to work, need I say more?

    1. Not really! This post was just an attempt at some humorous fiction — nothing that I described actually happened. GM really is testing out a Facebook interface for its cars, though.

  2. Am I the only one who thinks that this is a terrible idea? I believe there will be plenty of “lol in a car accident” type statuses due to this.

    1. How low can we go?? Multitasking while drinking coffee and working is bad enough, now checking Facebook while DRIVING? This is instigating irrationality and irresponsibility. Idiots!

      I can see it now: Here I am, driving, when suddenly someone comes plowing into me. The moron runs a stop sign while I have the right of way.

      Facebook status: “Oops. in a car acident. fml.”


      1. One bit of irony that didn’t make it into my post — the Facebook interface is provided through OnStar, which is heavily advertised as a safety feature.

  3. It’s those types of posts that make me not use twitter. I don’t care that you had Cheerios for breakfast. I really don’t care that you are dreading going to work. And I really really don’t care that you are reading the newspaper on the toilet. It’s just all too much information!

    Great post by the way. I think you now have more than 12 regular readers. :)

    <3 Milieu

  4. What a crock lol…why on earth do we need Facebook interfaces for our cars??? I deleted my Facebook account a while back…I just don’t trust them. I know that you can select what information you share etc., but the fact is they’ve still got my information in there somewhere! When every “improvement” they make seems to give them more freedom to use my information as they see fit, I just don’t want a bar of it any more. Maybe I’m just turning into a fusty old technophobe…

  5. This post was AWESOME! Made me laugh. I don’t think I need to update my facebook that often though. Well, except now, I lost my cell phone and feel completely alone in the world. Without social networking I would have no contact to the outside world.

  6. Funny, I was just posting about how I wanted to set up a system in the 70s, whereby someone with a car phone (note the lack of cell phones in that era) could dial someone’s license plate number and speak directly to them. “Pardon me, but you left your briefcase on top of the car.” and other such friendly messages could be exchanged. I decided people might find less desirable communication choices and abandoned the idea. Wasn’t I clever to foresee that portable devices would become so prevalent?

    1. And there’s always the danger that a mechanic will accidentally activate the Facebook interface while working on a car, resulting in updates like:

      9:48am: What’s that smell? It smells like a dead fish in here.
      9:48am: Anyway, she says she can’t adjust the driver’s seat.
      9:49am: It looks like something’s blocking — hey! Is that a dead fish?

    1. Hi Pranav,

      I didn’t actually get to test-drive one of these cars, but I would imagine that listening to it read other people’s updates would be more distracting than listening to the radio and less distracting than talking on the phone (I also think it would probably be somewhat annoying, because the text-to-speech technology probably won’t get the tone of voice right, or be able to pronounce everyone’s name correctly).

      I think posting updates would be really distracting, though. My experience with voice recognition in cars is that it’s pretty bad, so I can’t imagine how many tries it would take to get a Facebook update right.

  7. Nice post!
    I laughed but also asked myself when all you write will come true?
    In 2-5 years???

    Monica was right: we have to ask for more performances like the parking car one.
    Keep in touch and wish you all the best,

    A smiling face in a new Monday morning,

  8. very funny. would actually be fun to have that in the car i guess, unless you were talking on the phone about someone and didn’t want anyone to hear, but Siri the Facebook Updater posted your whole convo!

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