Can Smart Phones & Smart Driving Coexist?

Smartphone apps are becoming a key selling point to car buyers in North America as well as in Europe, according to a report that {complink 9171|Frost & Sullivan} released this week. For electronic component suppliers, there will be more demand for in-car consoles that can display smartphone apps.

Last year, 25 percent and 23 percent of cars sold in North America and Europe, respectively, were able to run smartphone applications, according to Frost & Sullivan. The majority of cars will be equipped with smartphone interfaces in as little as five years in the two regions, although Europe's penetration will be slower than that of North America's, the report said.

Relying on third-party software developers to create smartphone apps for cars is more cost-effective compared to when automakers develop propriety driver and passenger interfaces in-house, according to the report. Carmakers will also benefit from much shorter development cycles since users will be able to use and buy smartphone applications as they are developed, compared to design cycles of five or more years for proprietary Internet/navigation/video applications that are built into cars.

For the consumer, the availability of smartphone apps for use in the car means that such informative and/or entertaining applications can be purchased and used as soon as they become commercially available. Navigation systems built into car consoles can cost over $1,000 as an option at the dealership, which customers are stuck with during the lifetime of the car. Instead, smartphone navigation systems for car use can be replaced and updated several times during the lifetime of the car at a significantly lower cost.

Ford's Sync system represents the most ambitious effort among mainstream carmakers to date. The Sync accommodates several navigation and entertainment smartphone applications on a dashboard console with voice-activated commands. Toyota's Entune system also offers voice-activated features for audio and navigation applications that can run from smartphones that are docked to the system.

However, luxury carmakers such as Audi, BMW, Mercedes, and Lexus will continue to offer their proprietary technologies that are built into their cars. But Frost & Sullivan notes that they will also increasingly offer smartphone interfaces “as an added feature to address consumer interest.”

BMW, for example, plans to offer a system in as early as three years that will allow drivers to dictate and send emails and text messages with voice-activated commands. But the German luxury carmaker is also accommodating smartphone applications. For example, some of BMW's North American models allow BlackBerry email messages to be read out loud over the stereo system.

However, a lack of standardization among the different platforms and docking stations could be problematic for the wide-scale adoption of smartphone applications, Frost & Sullivan asserts. Developing a standard protocol for easy integration of portable devices with vehicles is difficult because of varied OEM products and consumer electronics lifecycles, the analyst firm says.

Already, smartphone applications that run on the iPhone often work in select models, while car docking stations can often just accommodate an Android or a BlackBerry, but not other smartphones. No standards body has yet adopted a common standard for all smartphones and applications for different car models.

The potential distraction that smartphone apps pose for drivers also represents a potential negative factor that could slow down adoption, Frost & Sullivan notes. While one can legally use voice-activated, hands-free applications in the car in North America and Europe to make and receive phone calls, what happens when drivers begin to use voice-activated commands to send and receive email, find available parking spaces, or concentrate on other applications while behind the wheel? So far, legislation does not exist that prevents drivers from using any of these applications in North America or Europe, yet distraction will remain an issue and could be legislated in the future.

Meanwhile, more and more smartphone apps will become available for drivers in the future, and carmakers will increasingly seek to accommodate them. For automotive suppliers, the dashboard consoles will represent the main opportunity. However, the future of smartphone apps for cars is far from certain.

The rollout of the applications on an industry-wide scale could come to a halt if the standards problems do not get resolved in a few years, or if using smart applications turns out to be very unsafe. However, the role smartphones will play in the “infotainment” sphere should be determined within a couple of years as these issues are addressed.

42 comments on “Can Smart Phones & Smart Driving Coexist?

  1. Anna Young
    May 27, 2011

    Good intention, huge benefit for the car makers, as development cycles is shorter and users will be able to buy smartphone applications when they’re developed. However, the danger here is, as clearly pointed out, the potential distraction that smart apps pose for drivers may outweigh the benefits.

    Bruce as you rightly mentioned, it is a gray area, “what happens when drivers begins to use voice – activated commands to send and receive emails”?

    Some inconsiderate motorist   still fail to park and take a call from their smart phones let alone have a standardized in car smartphones. This to me will increase and add to already hazardous driving related problems on the road.

    The distraction factor may pose a difficulty for the adoption of this device. Hence, I think considerable legislation is required before this can proceed.



  2. DataCrunch
    May 27, 2011

    This one is tricky.  Vehicles don’t even let you program the navigation system while the car is in motion, even if it is the passenger that wants to enter a new destination.  I believe that there is a place for smart phones in vehicles, but legislation may prove difficult to have them be useful, unless in the parked position. 

  3. itguyphil
    May 27, 2011

    Unless it's voice-activated, as most smartphones have that capability now, then they could work out well. It'll be like KIT from Knight Rider.

  4. SunitaT
    May 28, 2011

    “The rollout of the applications on an industry-wide scale could come to a halt if the standards problems do not get resolved in a few years, or if using smart applications turns out to be very unsafe”


     I agree with your point. We need to test the apps from safety point of view before we roll-out those apps.  May be we can have safety ratings for those apps.

  5. mfbertozzi
    May 28, 2011

    I agree with you Anna, clear rules to regulate usage of that technologies are necessary for safety reasons. Anyway I suppose the integration reported by Bruce within his editorial could help a lot people with limitations in driving as disabled for example, isn't it?

  6. prabhakar_deosthali
    May 28, 2011

    For using smart phone apps in the cars whether by the driver or by the passenger, whether voice activated or gesture activated, safety is very critical.  And this safety interlocks have to be built into the control system of the car. Because the bad drivers will be always bad drivers who care less for their as as the others on the street. In almost all the applications the safety interlock of being in a parking position will help the most. Like your Loo-break, snacks-break, lunch break, you can always take a communications break! The advantage of having all those gizmos in your car is that you will not be dependent on the road side infrastructure for this purpose.

  7. Mr. Roques
    May 28, 2011

    I'm not familiar with Ford's Sync system. How does it integrate 3rd party apps? What are some of those?… 

    Are there any apps that deal with actual driving? 

  8. Nemos
    May 28, 2011

    The mobile phones with embedded Gps receiver with smartphone applications cannot be compared with a Gps system embedded in the car .

    A gps system has a better gps receiver system and most of the time is a reliable system capable for navigation.

    If the car manufactures want to implement the cars with a capable navigation system must use a Gps system any other solution for the moment is a “cheap” solution.

  9. Adeniji Kayode
    May 28, 2011

    You are right,I think auto manufacturers should look into safety issue and come up with ways by which drivers can be cautioned when using this stuff


  10. Tim Votapka
    May 28, 2011

    Heads-up displays, voice-activation…isn't the point of driving a vehicle to get from one destination to another?

  11. mfbertozzi
    May 29, 2011

    Mr.Roques, I believe following example [ ]is very interesting; it represents a general platform which any cars' corporation could integrate to provide services mentioned within Bruce's editorial.

  12. Backorder
    May 29, 2011

    I find it surprising that you mentione car manufacturers developing such consoles inhouse! Normally, I believe the consoles are outsourced to third parties which further delegate the software for such applications to software consultancies in the developing world, India for instance. I have come across several instances of companies in India developing the cellphone apps adapters for auto consoles for console manufacturers.

    Would like to know more about auto majors who are working to develop their own such consoles.

  13. mfbertozzi
    May 29, 2011

    I agree Backorder, exactly, in fact mentioned example is reporting a third party doable to provide own platforms or applications for cars corporations. Don't know what auto majors are doing internally. It seems the near future is to integrate NFC or similar technologies but once again it is a patent provided by third parties.

  14. Himanshugupta
    May 29, 2011

    @Tvotapka, not anymore. For example, if i am driving to my office and it takes 30-45 minutes then instead of just driving i would like to finish the trivial (or important) stuff while on my way. Aren't we want to be connected all the time 🙂

  15. Kunmi
    May 30, 2011

    I will say “smart idea”

  16. Mydesign
    May 30, 2011

        That’s a big question, whether smart car and smart cars can co exist. I agree that many of us are driving more than 30 minutes and would like to do multitasking while driving. But personally i would like to suggest don’t mix drive with your mobiles, because any diversion in attention can cause accidents. Unless and until it’s a very urgent call, it’s better not to attend. There are some apps, which can respond to the incoming calls with an auto response that “The person you are calling is driving, please call after some time”. Such apps can make the driving smarter, than connecting the mobile to hands free or to car using blue tooth technology. While driving we have to take at most care because accidents can be happens due to negligence from both sides.

  17. prabhakar_deosthali
    May 30, 2011

    @Himanshugupta I do not agree with the idea of working while driving. You can as well do a lot of this before leaving for office , because all those facilities can be used at your home in a more safer way without that hazard of getting distracted from your main function of driving. The driving time actually should be used to mentally relax, listen to soft music, sooth your nerves and prepare yourself for the busy day ahead in the office. We should not become to paranoid about using every available minute to be in touch except may be in case of an emergency.

  18. Daniel
    May 30, 2011

       It’s always better to consider smart car and smart phone separately. If we are using Smart car or smart phone separately and wisely, we can be a smart person. Otherwise, it would be over smartness, which can be ending up with tragedies. There are many apps for making our life smarter and simpler, but still nobody came up with any apps for saving a life and traumas.

  19. Taimoor Zubar
    May 30, 2011

    As long as the interface is voice-driven and does not require the driver to use his hands to navigate through the system, I think the use of smartphone apps while driving is fairly safe. After all, people are used to listening to music and shows on their stereos. If that can't be a distraction, using the app via voice commands can also not be.

  20. Daniel
    May 30, 2011

        Taimoorz, hearing the music and talking over the phone are different. Hearing the music or any other activity is a one side action, that’s we are only listening. But talking over the phone is a duplex activity; we have to listen and to respond at a time. Most of the times we have to think or recollect certain things while talking. I think most of the time, this may be a distraction for driving.

  21. Taimoor Zubar
    May 30, 2011

    @Jacob: Talking on the phone while driving is synonymous to talking to a person sitting next to you. There is not much risk in that. The distraction with phones come when the user has to look at the phone's screen or handle the phone's buttons while driving. If the interface is completely voice-driven, I think talking on the phone or using a smartphone app via voice commands is completely safe.

  22. Tim Votapka
    May 30, 2011

    I think this comes down to a matter of personal ethics and the depth of the communication going on. A quick “Hey I'm running late, be there in 10 minutes” should be harmless so long as the attention remains on the road and around the vehicle. If someone is giving the equivalent of a webinar while driving, I'd be inclined to agree that the risk for distraction is much higher.

    Remember, driving a vehicle safely requires a good defense too. There was a viral video out last winter that confronted the subject of texting while driving. Targeted at teenagers and parents, the public service campaign pointed out that even a seemingly harmless action of looking away from the dashboard for just 3-5 seconds can be fatal.

    So if voice activation interfaces handle this liability, then fine. I guess I'd like to see the field safety results and real-world beta testing before making a firm conclusion.

  23. Ms. Daisy
    May 30, 2011


    You are right on all the points and I agree with Bruce's  statement that

    “a system that will allow drivers to dictate and send emails and text messages with voice-activated commands.” is a helpful use of technology for on the go tele-commuting for short discussions. The risk of its abuse is the danger that we all face on the road by tired and distracted drivers.

  24. Daniel
    May 31, 2011

    @TaimoorZ, it’s all depends up on the way and how we are using the devices. When compare with using the mobile while driving, voice interaction applications are much useful. But again it depends up on whether such applications are required or not, while driving. It depends and differs from person to person.

    May 31, 2011

    If a driver in the UK is spotted using a mobile device whilst driving the police will issue a fixed penalty of $100 and 3 penalty points on the driver's license. 12 points means a total driving ban. The law in the UK is very strict concerning driving distractions so it will be very interesting to see how in-car apps develop in the UK car market.

  26. prabhakar_deosthali
    May 31, 2011

    With new voice activated smart phones and other gadgets which will allow a hands free operation , it may be difficult for the policemen to spot such offenders. hence it is much more a necessity that the technology itself prevents such smart appliances being used while the vehicle is in motion. The drivers must park their vehicle to be able use such applications.

  27. Himanshugupta
    May 31, 2011

    @prabhakar_deosthali, it is not really possible these days to use the time that we spent in the car driving to relax our mental and physical muscles due to all the traffic, especially in India. Some of my colleagues prefer to come by bus or auto instead. Now, instead one chose to come by car and hopefully there is a car pool then car can be used as an alternative connection point. All i am implying is that the smart car is more useful with connectivity.

  28. Himanshugupta
    May 31, 2011

    @flyingscot, i think that the ban is to hold the mobile while driving but one can still use handsfree system. I might be wrong. But using handsfree system is as comparable to talking to the co-passanger.

  29. William K.
    May 31, 2011

    Driving today requires a lot of attention to what is happening around the car. At 60 MPH you go 88 feet every second, so there is a real need to pay attention to the task of driving. Stopped in traffic is a bit different, but still plenty of chance to bash another car or run over a pedestrian if your attention wanders.

    The distraction of using a phone is not just the pushing of buttons or holding the phone, it is mostly the concentration on a “full duplex” conversation. No degree of hands-free can change that part. The big problem is that a real big part of the carriers profit comes from people talking while driving, which the result is just like it was with cigarrettes for so many years. With that much profit in question, safety will never win.

    So the short answer is NO, it is simply not possible to use a smart phone while driving safely.

    Of course, one change that would inprove the safety a lot would be to change the communications mode to push-to-talk simplex. That is the mode used by commercial 2-way radio operators for years, and it has a much better safety record.

  30. Bruce Gain
    June 1, 2011

    This issue is that in-car technology, whether it is driver-assistance, navigation, or audio-selection tools, must be safe. OEMs need to do more tests and be more transparent about what the hazards are. At the same time, enforcement of dangerous habits needs to be stepped up, at least in the United States and Western Europe where drivers all-to-often are seen talking with their phone held to their ear or texting, clearly putting the lives of others at risk.

  31. Mr. Roques
    June 15, 2011

    Interesting… but what I would want (or think might be interesting) are apps that can interact with the car, not just the stereo, etc… but be able to limit speed, report back to a server, etc, etc.

  32. mfbertozzi
    June 16, 2011

    Good point Mr.Roques, as per what I understood currently that platform doesn't provide those features, but it seems their own middleware (running as development environment) could allow them. Don't know other apps already available for car's control by voice.

  33. Mr. Roques
    July 18, 2011

    It will be very dangerous! once the app takes control over your vehicle, you lose control and maybe a hacker (or glitch) can cause an accident!

    But it would be interesting to see what happens.

  34. mfbertozzi
    July 19, 2011

    I agree, it is a critical issue. It could be very interesting for example to deep understand tests' processes and methodogy to perform in order to avoid situations you have mentioned. I believe who will hold that knowledge, could in fact bring in the market a unique competence and maybe new business opportunities never thougth before, will raise.

  35. Kunmi
    July 19, 2011

    The question is like someone sitting on top of the vehicle without a belt. Any sudden change in velocity can end up in a serious crash. Smart phone and Smart driving may co-exist if properly designed, proved and tested appropriate. But it can be too-much knowledge-too much trouble. In human, as a result of multiple medications, we do have drug to grug interaction. We can not rule out device to device interaction in electronics also. We've got to think of what we are askiing for! 

  36. mfbertozzi
    July 20, 2011

    This is another perspective of the eco-system smart phone-smart driving are potentially going to create. According to your thoughts,  I believe that integration could help human senses in discovering faster potential dangerous events or things with possible impact on safety. I don't believe that main sense of that integration will be in the direction of human senses' replacement.

    I am quite convinced knowledge in conceive, design and especially in testing smart phone-smart driving integration, is potentially a new business to launch.

  37. mario8a
    July 24, 2011


    to answer the question on the article, I'll say the answer is YES.

    as much as the technology will facilite having a conversation in the car while driving, it is still a transportation vehicle, we will not live and eat in the car.



  38. Mr. Roques
    August 25, 2011


    Can you further explain what you said? I didn't get what you meant about the test processes.

  39. mfbertozzi
    August 27, 2011

    Yes Mr.Roques, I can. I was meaning like this: since quite a long ago, several companies, especially from India, have started business in off-shore services for sw development and testing. Good results in terms of customers' satisfaction and work's outstanding have been achieved in the area of IT, ERP, telecom, aerospace and so on. Imo, those talents and model could be applied also for testing services in the area automotive integration discussed here (smart driving & smart phone), it has been recognized is a process to pay attention a lot.

  40. Mr. Roques
    September 30, 2011

    Indeed, they probably have a big test unit going on but it's different when you start mixing consumer electronics directly with safety issues, with deadly consequences.

    I can't think of another consumer electronic that could be more harmful than your car stereo taking over control.

  41. mfbertozzi
    October 1, 2011

    I agree and maybe this is the reason for explaining car's control by voice is not yet delivered. Sometimes we have heard Army has adopted similar controls for military vehicles, including helicopters and jets. Probably, as happened in other areas, civil technology will adopt solutions previously tested (and used) by them.

  42. Mr. Roques
    October 31, 2011

    Well, the unmanned aircrafts are normal in modern warfare but ground vehicles are more complicated (think of the Mars rover expedition). 

    I think they can keep pushing the express lanes that are for AI control only. 

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