Distractions or Attractions?

Sick of schlock jocks on your car radio? Want to figure out where your pals are while you're on the road phone-free?  Not quite sure where you are but you'd really like to know?   TomTom, a worldwide in-car navigation provider, has the answers to these questions and more. The question they beg is this: Are these additions to the info and entertainment we can get in our vehicles a positive development that will enrich our lives?  Or will these add to the distractions that contribute to so many accidents these days?

The answers will be determined by the uses to which drivers put these new content and service offerings and, just as much, on when they access them.  And, frankly, it is still too early in the game to come to any conclusions on that score.  But it is not too soon to determine that the variety of stuff offered to us in what it calls its TomTom PLUS portfolio is intriguing.

So what's included?  Audiobooks, for one. TomTom has teamed up with Audible Inc., the largest supplier of digital spoken books to offer a vast catalogue of titles.  This allows users to simply download their favorite book, magazine or podcast through their PC or MAC onto their device. Spoken books from popular authors such as Dan Brown, Stephen King and James Patterson and over 23,000 titles from genres like fiction, humor, mystery, non-fiction, politics, self-development and language are available on a per-use basis, and they're supplemented by audio versions of newspapers, events and performances, how-to programs, language courses, travel information and education programs.
 
TomTom Buddies allows drivers to invite other TomTom users to become their authorized "buddies," and once they're on the buddy list each member of the group can see where their friends and family are and navigate to their locations. Just the thing to have if you think your best friend is going out with your wife.  Additionally, users can send each other text messages that are read aloud -- stuff like "Leave my wife alone if you know what's good for you!" For those livin' on the cheatin' side of town, the service also provides secure privacy options so that users can hide their location and add or delete "buddies" as required.

Not quite sure where you are, lot less where you're going?  The TomTom Quick GPS Fix continually retrieves ultra-precise details from satellites orbiting the earth, which means TomTom drivers will be able to find their current position faster than ever when using the device. As part of the update to TomTom Traffic, users will now also receive up-to-date road condition alerts via a wireless Internet data connection (GPRS). Users will be kept up-to-date on any road conditions such as construction or ice on the road that may affect journeys. Coupled with the current TomTom Traffic service that includes real-time traffic alerts and the option to plan journeys to avoid traffic hotspots, this service provides complete updates on weather and traffic conditions.

TomTom Weather now features detailed real-time weather information for any city on the user's selected map. It provides hourly updates on cloud cover, rain and snow, temperature, wind, lightning warnings and visibility so that users can now travel in confidence while knowing about inclement weather that may affect their journey.

Finally, TomTom users traveling to Europe have access to a comprehensive database of European "safety camera" sites (read speed traps,) which have been checked and verified by field surveyors. Completely integrated into the new TomTom GO range, TomTom Safety Cameras encourage safe driving within posted European speed limits, while ensuring that users can report changes in locations of speed cameras and mobile speed traps.

So whether you want to learn Esperanto as you drive, check up on a friend's location, avoid a thunderstorm or evade the long arm of the law, TomTom has you covered.  You can decide whether that's a good thing.

Boston-bred Tom Ripley now covers the automobile industry and the human condition from his home in Villeperce, France.