Product image of RIM’s new tablet for business, the Playbook

Fresh off the news that a bus driver was fired for reading his Amazon Kindle e-reader while driving, Research in Motion (RIM) today announced its new tablet, the BlackBerry Playbook. Not surprisingly, this is just the first of many announcements of tablet form factors (including e-readers) designed to compete with the Kindle and Apple’s iPad, including the Dell Streaks, Samsung Galaxy Tab, and Cisco Cius.

Like smartphones, I expect these new media-rich mobile devices will compete for our attention in all our aspects of our lives – including while we’re driving.  With companies such as ZoomSafer leading the delivery of safe driving solutions for smartphones, the advent of these tablets will drive more technology development to help prevent these devices from becoming further distractions to drivers.

Historically, PCs and mobile data terminals (MDTs) have been used heavily in certain transportation-based industries (long-haul trucking, public safety, etc.) over the years.  With distracted driving becoming a hotter topic, several vendors have created safety-oriented solutions to reduce the level of distraction while driving.  Companies such as Qualcomm, Jotto Desk and Blank-It already have solutions on the market, all of which provide a variety of functions to ensure safe, legal and responsible connectivity.  These include the ability to change the interface of a driver’s MDTs while the vehicle is in motion, and in some cases, even automatically activate voice-based interfaces – especially useful for supporting now ubiquitous turn-by-turn navigation applications.

In the end, technology will continue to pervade our lives, changing the way we work, and play – but unfortunately, these changes are not always for the better.  Just as new technology such as the new crop of e-readers can benefit drivers by making travel simpler or more pleasant, so, too can technology be one more unnecessary, potentially fatal distraction.  Hopefully, though, through a combination of education, legislation and technology we can keep them from impacting the safety of our road