Government To Crack Down on In-Car Tech
As cars evolve into rolling versions of smartphones, the federal government has decided to stop people from looking too long at in-dash screens instead of the road ahead. Yesterday (Feb. 16), the U.S. Department of Transportation issued its first set of guidelines to automakers that propose limits on the use of built-in communication and entertainment systems while a vehicle is in motion.
The guidelines call for disabling in-dash system features that require looking at a screen and handling controls, including entering addresses in a navigation system, dialing a phone, Internet browsing, text messaging or accessing social networks. The guidelines also call on automakers to design user interfaces that won't require more than two seconds of a driver's visual attention.
These guidelines focus only on factory-installed entertainment and communication systems –– not newfangled warning functions such as forward-collision or lane- departure alerts.
There's more to come, however. "Phase II" guidelines are expected to focus on how devices brought into the vehicle (such as smartphones and tablets) are used while driving, and "Phase III" guidelines may address voice-activated controls of in-car systems.
This first set of guidelines is preliminary. Automakers and the public will have 60 days to provide input before the government issues its final guidelines.
Automakers already follow such guidelines, the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, an industry group, pointed out. AAM first developed its own set of voluntary safety guidelines in 2002, together with the Society of Automotive Engineers, the Consumer Electronics Association, AAA and the federal government itself, said AAM spokesman Wade Newton. The AAM has issued two updates in the past decade, Newton says, and the government considered the latest of them when developing the new guidelines. AAM is now reviewing those guidelines.
Individually, automakers say that they remain focused on keeping in-dash systems secondary to driving. Audi, for example, says it has kept the "singular focus" of its system on providing faster access to the information that drivers need to get from point A to point B.
And AAM's Newton says that such built-in systems can sometimes make driving safer. For instance, he says, a teenager who is able to call his parents hands-free and tell them he'll be late for a curfew is less likely to drive like a madman.