In theory, synchronizing cellphone applications with a vehicle's infotainment system will reduce the amount of time drivers spend looking at their phones instead of the road. Over the next year, the software provider Airbiquity Inc. is working with three automakers to launch a technology in 32 languages and 53 countries that would connect smartphones directly to a vehicle's dashboard. Drivers would be able to pair up their phone, start driving and use certain cellphone apps like Facebook and Twitter through verbal commands or steering wheel controls.
"Some people are going to like it, some will not," said David Jumpa, chief revenue officer at Airbiquity. "The next generation can't live without it."
To the extent that people can't get what they need from their car, they'll turn to their phone. But as this type of technology becomes more sophisticated, there's a concern it could end up being just as distracting as a cellphone or perhaps even more so.
DOT has yet to issue a mandate for in-vehicle electronics systems. Last month, however, the department released voluntary guidelines calling for stakeholders to disable video calling, social media and Web browsing features unless the vehicle is in park and to limit the time drivers must take their eyes off the road to 2 seconds at a time and 12 seconds total per task.
Look, Ma, no driver!
Driverless cars, while they take away the issue of distracted driving, present a whole new set of concerns. What if the automated system fails? How will control transfer between the computer and the driver? What if the driver is drunk? And how will other drivers react to this new technology?
"What do you do when you're driving a vehicle and you look next to you and you see a person reading the newspaper while driving, how does that make you feel?" asked Mike Schagrin, program manager of the Connected Vehicle Safety & Automation Office of DOT's Research and Innovative Technology Administration.
"Technically, we are really far along; it's all these nontechnical issues that really are the hurdles," he added.
NHTSA is studying the different levels of vehicle automation and plans to release a decision by the end of the year on whether it will regulate automatic braking, in which a vehicle stops by itself to avoid an impending collision. The administration also plans to decide whether V2V and V2I communications systems should be mandated, be incentivized or undergo more research and development.
"It is virtually an impossible task to keep apace with the technological evolution that we're seeing right now," NHTSA's Strickland said. "The best thing that we can do as department and as an agency is be able to create the right framework and make sure that whatever technology innovation happens always happens in that zone of safety that's bounded by good engineering, good science and good data."
Reprinted from Climatewire with permission from Environment & Energy Publishing, LLC. www.eenews.net, 202-628-6500