Nightly News   |  September 25, 2013

Car gadgets turn dashboards into computers

New technology is making the driver’s seat look more like an office chair, making the dashboard into your computer. Car companies say that these improvements are helping them stay competitive. NBC’s Katy Tur reports.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> this week the state of new york joined other places in establishing so-called text ting zones where you can pull over at rest stops to use your electronic device . they have already put specially fitted suvs on the road that you will start seeing in you drive-thru these parts. they are designed to look into your car from up high and catch you driving distracted. what if the distraction is built into your car? we get the story tonight from nbc's katie tur.

>> reporter: in a new unmarked suv high above other motorists new york state trooper steve conley is on the hunt for distracted drivers.

>> i pulled you over because you were talking on your cell phone while you were driving.

>> reporter: five points on her license.

>> five points if it saves someone's life is worth it.

>> reporter: that and up to a $150 fine for talking on her phone. it's illegal in 12 states. text ting is banned in 41. though 23% of car accidents involve cell phones , they are hardly the only thing distracting drivers. new gadgets in cars themselves make the driver's seat look more like your office chair . the dashboard, your computer. it's a one-stop shop for your connected life and your digital the life behind the wheel. send text t.

>> reporter: robin from see nintendo wii san says it allows car companies to stay competitive. are you encouraging using google and facebook and texting.

>> we are encouraging customers to look to the larger screen.

>> reporter: but you are still looking to scroll through.

>> yes. but you are glancing down as you would for a radio station .

>> reporter: many new cars come with new connectability and touch screens allowing you to access the internet n. 2010 , before much of of the new technology the government reported 26,000 crashes involved somebody adjusting controls in the car. watch dogs worry the number will only get bigger.

>> you wouldn't want a surgeon operating on you checking facebook . you wouldn't want the pilot of your plane checking facebook . you shouldn't do it while driving a vehicle.

>> reporter: are we sacrificing safety in order to be more connected?

>> you could say the same thing for someone walking down the street texting on their smartphone.

>> reporter: but i'm not driving a car walking down the street.

>> that's true, but you shouldn't be doing it. you shouldn't drive down the road typing on a smart phone .

>> reporter: williams argues they put the technology into the dashboard.

>> there is still some level of distraction but it is safer than using a smart phone .

>> reporter: the caveat, nissan only allows you to google navigational information or text back canned responses.

>> this is an improvement. we think there are more improve mentes in the future and we'll continue to roll them out.

>> reporter: next up for nissan, by 2020 , a car that drives itself. impossible, they hope, to distract. katie tur, nbc news, irvine, california.