“You can now watch Youtube on Android Auto,” wrote Android Authority yesterday. “But you probably shouldn’t.” Common sense might seem to reject the idea of watching YouTube while driving. This certainly didn’t stop the YouTubeAuto app’s creator. Android Authority’s Matt Adams warning to users against using the app in their car didn’t go far enough. The app isn’t simply a bad idea for drivers. It’s most likely illegal to use, and its developer deserves a sound rebuke.
In a late December YouTube video, app developer Kiran Kumar posted a video showing off his new app. The YouTubeAuto app lets you stream video directly to your dashboard. From there, you can watch any video available on YouTube. The app allows you to operate YouTube as you normally would, accessing your subscriptions, favorites, etc. However, using it likely breaks a few laws.
The YouTubeAuto app is a third-party app designed for the Android Auto. Available on a select number of vehicles, Android Auto is an app designed for vehicle dashboard video displays. Android currently markets it as a service for hands-free calling, GPS, and radio. Given Android’s notoriously open architecture, however, it was only a matter of time before app developers asked themselves “Why not?” In this case, a number of state laws against distracting media in driver-facing screens is why.
Foreward Thinking or Illegal?
You can find a full list of laws on AAA’s website that help explain what makes the YouTubeAuto app illegal. For example, in Colorado, you can have video screens in the front of the car, with the caveat that “they are not used to display visual entertainment.” Similar language exists in most states. Only 12 have no specific restrictions. While most of these laws specify “television screens,” a normal display streaming YouTube videos would likely fall afoul of state laws where applicable.
The YouTubeAuto app may sound like a fun idea. It may also be far more viable an option once self-driving cars are fully actualized. For now, however, it’s likely just illegal.