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How Sirius Backseat TV Works

Watching TV in the Backseat
The driver of this tricked-out truck ought to keep an eye out for cops on the highway.
The driver of this tricked-out truck ought to keep an eye out for cops on the highway.
Bill Pugliano/Getty Images Entertainment

Come on, admit it: There's just something mesmerizing about pulling up on another car's rear quarter and peering into the blue glow of LCD screens inside. Your first thought is probably, "What are they watching?"

Could ­­that voyeuristic instinct become a safety hazard if drivers everywhere start installing video units? Sirius almost seemed poised for the legal backlash by purposefully naming its product Backse­at TV. Sirius knew what it was doing: Many states have passed laws forbidding front-seat video viewing, for safety's sake. Lawmakers and electronics manufacturers compromised; the tech companies agreed to disable the front seat car stereo's video capabilities if the vehicle's emergency brake is disengaged. In other words, the video will only play in the front seat when the vehicle is in park and the parking brake is applied.

Of course, inventive enthusiasts have created all kinds of hacks and workarounds to circumvent this safety feature. However, police officers can -- and do -- issue tickets for front-seat monitors that they see playing while someone's driving. However, you can install as many back seat video screens as you please.

­Apparently, lawmakers feel the risks posed by a driver viewing someone else's car video programming are acceptable, but the research literature is somewhat fuzzy on this point. Numerous studies point to the risks of distracted driving, but no one can pinpoint the exact number of auto accidents caused by consumer electronics. In recent years, public officials have focused specifically on conducting cell phone conversations and texting while driving. "The more devices you have in a vehicle, the more potential distractions you have," said Ron Kipling, a specialist in human factors in traffic safety for the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute [source: Evangelista]. That said, wouldn't a device that reduces the distraction of screaming children in the back seat benefit a driver's concentration? Perhaps the proliferation of cell phones with streaming video and better live television offerings to drivers will produce more research on the relationship between the small screen and driver safety.

Can someone with minimal electronics skills rig a monitor to play Backseat TV up front? Sure, but common sense should prevail to ensure that you don't have videos playing where they will distract you and endanger others on the road.

­­Now that we've looked at some of the safety concerns associated with Sirius Backseat TV, let's look at it from a business standpoint. To find out why this innovation may or may not work, go to the next page.