USA Today Duped by iPad Steering Wheel Hoax

Stories about a website hawking steering wheel mounts for iPads that would enable drivers to do their reading en route started popping up all over the interwebs last week. The idea, or course, is a safety proponents nightmare, and as one might imagine, it’s most likely a hoax. Jalopnik did some rudimentary research and was able to debunk the product as an almost certain prank.

Unfortunately, no one let USA Today in on the joke. They posted an item this morning called “Is Mounting Your Apple iPad On a Streeting Wheel Safe?” on their automotive blog, Drive On, which ended with the query, “Tell us what you think. Is this invention safe?”

“First of all, it’s a hoax,” one of Drive On’s readers commented. “Second of all, why is a newspaper publishing a hoax as if it were real?”

NPR has a theory. As USA Today pointed out in their coverage, the iPad in the video displays the magazine’s app:

A colleague sort of happened across it as he was surfing the Internet.
How could he help but notice that the makers of the “iPad Steering
Wheel Mount” had chosen USA TODAY’s app to demonstrate this device
aimed at allowing you to read while you drive.

Writes Bill Chapell on the NPR blog All Tech Considered, “This steering wheel mount may be a hoax — but it’s a capitalized one — note the Google Ads. And I had to think for a sec, ‘Hey, I wonder if this guy got a product-placement fee from USA Today?’ ”

USA Today disavows any complicity in the matter, stating in the today’s article, “Thankfully, we can’t get accused of endorsing this contraption because it’s apparently not available for sale right now. If you press the ‘buy’ button, you find they are sold out.”

(Hm, maybe a good sign these things were never for sale in the first place?)

At any rate, it’s fairly entertaining to watch the iPad display flip around in accordance to the whims of the driver.