Facebook and Twitter in our cars? It’s a gimmick, says Nokia

An increasing number of automakers from Toyota to Mercedes are putting social media apps and features into their car dashboard, but Nokia’s Here connected car and mapping division decided to see if that’s a capability that drivers really want. Drawing from focus groups Here hosted in the U.S. and Germany, Nokia found the answer was a resounding no.

In fact, some drivers in both seemed almost hostile to the idea. From a blog post penned by Here’s head of market intelligence Christine Mäenpää:

Integrating social media into a car seemed like a gimmick to some or irrelevant to the task of driving.

“What’s the connection with cars?” asked Christoph, a 32-year-old from Germany. “When I’m driving, I don’t want to share anything.”

There’s also a sense that integrating social media into a car’s dashboard does not add any valuable functionality beyond what’s already available on smartphones.

For many of the people Mäenpää interviewed, the driver’s seat was one of the last refuges from the daily deluge of social media. But many also cited safety issues. Updating [company]Facebook[/company] or checking your [company]Twitter[/company] feed might be a great way to wile away the time on your daily bus commute. But [company]Nokia[/company] found that drivers felt they were dangerous distractions in cars, even though most automakers have implemented features like voice commands and audio playback to keep drivers’ focused on the wheel and the road.

While I’m all for more app and internet functionality in my car, I tend to agree with Nokia’s focus groups. I’m not interested in tweeting my random thoughts or examining Instagram photos of my new nephew while in gridlock on Chicago Kennedy Expressway (though I wouldn’t be opposed to an app that reads items from my networking feeds when I want to catch up on my social backlog).

There is a whole category of social-location apps that would be very useful while in the driver’s seat. Glympse, for instance, pioneered the ETA app, which lets you coordinate meeting locations and arrival times with friends and family. Navigation apps like [company]Google[/company]’s Waze and [company]Telnav[/company]’s Scout are adopting such location-based features as social apps like Swarm.

One of the nice elements of these kinds of apps is that they require less, not more, work than dealing with traditional social and messaging tools. Instead of punching an address and arrival time into a text message, you hit a button or speak a voice command and the app does all of the coordination. Ideally those location-sharing apps will one day integrate directly into the nav apps in our heads up displays.

Here’s Mäenpää broached those types of apps with her focus groups as well, but she still encountered resistance. So it may take a while for people to see the usefulness of location-sharing while driving. But Nokia also detected a bit of a double standard when it comes to different services. Most of these drivers admitted to texting while driving.

Safety last? the conundrum of connected cars

With no fear of federal regulation, carmakers are pursuing their “infotainment” strategy of packing cars with the latest consumer electronics. But it’s not clear that the states — which are already fighting distracted driving by cell phone users — will go along for the ride.