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Pandora while driving? Safety may depend on your listening gear

In my third installment of my Internet radio in my car diary, I admit that I have tuned in to Pandora in my Honda Civic while driving on the freeway. You probably think this isn’t much of a confession. But I found the experience distracting enough to wonder whether I should make it a habit.

#netradioincarTo backtrack, over the summer I got a Bluetooth powered stereo installed in my Honda, specifically a Panasonic DEH-X6500BT. The receiver very nicely connects to my Android device—a Droid Razr. That means I can pretty much audit any radio application I’ve installed while driving my vehicle. Not surprisingly I went for Pandora first. How wonderful to listen to my Mozart channel while commuting from San Francisco to my teaching gig in Santa Cruz!

Unfortunately, there are limitations to this pleasurable activity. First of all, the DEH is really designed to work with the iPod/iPhone rather than a Droid. But even if I’d had the good sense to mention that I owned an Android to my stereo installation guy, the receiver instructions make it clear that Pandora only goes so far with the system under any circumstances.

To wit: “Certain functions of the Pandora service are not available when accessing the service through the Pioneer car audio/video products, including but not limited to creating new stations, buying tracks from iTunes, viewing additional information, logging into Pandora, and adjusting Cell Network Audio Quality.”

Despite these and my device/receiver incompatibilities, I can access a variety of functions via my receiver panel. I can skip songs; I can pause songs; and I can toggle through various display options. On the other hand, I don’t seem to be able to change stations or deploy the “quick mix” function.

But frankly, I am not sure that I want to. Through my commute, my driving felt distracted enough just futzing around the Pandora options that I could access. And we haven’t even discussed firing Pandora up while you are driving. I started the app before I drove onto the street.

Some DEH models give you the option of connecting to Pandora via your iPod with relative ease (you can toggle between Tuner, CD Player, Aux, Bluetooth, and “iPod/Pandora”). But if you don’t have that interface or something similar, I’d think twice about fidgeting with some random smart phone app while navigating any thoroughfare similar to Highway 17.

Bottom line: interactive smart phone music applications are probably best accessed via an automotive audio system that is maximally compatible with the app. This is a convenience and functionality issue, but it is  also a safety issue as well.

Pandora touch screen YouTubeOn the other hand, here’s an Edison media survey YouTube of a consumer trying a fancy new Pandora touch screen car interface, and she’s still skittish about the system. “Like I have to like really hit it,” she nervously notes, referring to the screen. ” . . . like it’s not overly sensitive which I guess is a good thing. But at the same time you really have to make sure you are typing, pressing the right letter.”

“So that’s why I try and do it before I’m driving,” she adds [just like me], “because it would just be too dangerous to do while I’m driving.”


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