Making coffee … in your car?

Gina Roberts-Grey

Italians love their coffee. Underscoring that passion, Italian automaker Fiat has introduced the world's first in-car espresso machine -- possibly eliminating the need to zip through a drive-through for your morning cup of Joe.

Fiat worked with Italian coffee company Lavazza to bring the “Coffee Experience” option to the automaker's newest model, the 500L. The "experience" consists of a set of coffee cups, a spoonholder and an espresso machine. The machine clips into a base just behind the front seats and adds boiling water to individual coffee pods.

And while some say coffee in your car is a great convenience, many are criticizing the Fiat feature, saying the espresso option brews a recipe for highway hazards.

Currently, only Europeans are able to brew their favorite blend while traversing tunnels, highways and roundabouts. Fiat hasn’t announced plans to bring the brewing option to the United States, but it might be available when the 500L debuts in the U.S. in 2013.

Is making coffee a danger to drivers?

The very notion of brewing coffee while driving has safety experts on the verge of boiling over.

Trying to navigate an unfamiliar road or bumper-to-bumper traffic requires a driver’s full attention, says Neven Gibbs, a retired military driving instructor. So taking away any attention to brew a cup of coffee could spell disaster.

“Can you imagine trying to back up or pass another vehicle while pouring a cup?  No way,” Gibbs says. “An in-car brewing station is just too distracting.”

And distraction can lead to higher car insurance rates.

A driver with a moving violation (on his record) is definitely frowned on by insurance companies,” says Mike Coleman, a State Farm agent in Alabama.

Depending on your age, gender, location and driving record, Coleman says, a ticket for being distracted by brewing coffee – if it were to become an in-car option in the U.S. -- could be grounds for non-renewal or, at the least, a rate hike of 5 percent to 25 percent.

A cup of coffee could lead to the need to lean on your health insurance, too. Drinking a cup of hot coffee while driving could burn your body, especially your mouth and tongue, says Marc Leavey, a primary care physician at Mercy Medical Center in Baltimore.

If that scalding liquid lands in the lap of the driver, not only might you be seriously injured, you could lose control (of the car),” Leavey says. Any sort of distracted driving ultimately results in the potential for the loss of control.

And this loss of control could endanger you, your passengers and others on the road, Leavey says.

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