I've been following some of the news about the guidelines the US government proposed last week aimed at reducing distracted driving, and I'm not really sure what to make of them.
I feel like there is a disconnect here, as if there are a few missing pieces of information. Is the government simply restating the obvious standards all auto companies are already — and should be — considering? Have they gone far enough to address the issue? Could this spark even more innovation in an industry where the need to integrate our increasingly mobile lifestyle with highway safety standards is becoming more evident?
In her column last week, Barbara Jorgensen wrote about the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) issuing a series of proposed guidelines, which “encourage automobile manufacturers to limit the distraction risk for in-vehicle electronic devices.” (See: Guidelines Aim to Reduce Distracted Driving.)
The auto trade organization, the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, said in a statement:
The Alliance Guidelines provided valuable input in current NHTSA efforts to address driver distraction issues. While NHTSA drew heavily on that input in developing the NHTSA Guidelines, it did incorporate a number of changes in an effort to further enhance driving safety, enhance guideline usability, improve implementation consistency, and incorporate the latest driver distraction research findings.
The organization went onto say:
Keeping eyes on the road and hands on the wheel is clearly the priority. Digital technology has created a connected culture in America that has forever changed our society. Consumers expect to have access to new technology, so integrating and adapting this technology to enable safe driving is the solution. Drivers are going to have conversations, listen to music and read maps while driving, and automakers are helping them do this more safely with integrated hands-free systems that help drivers focus on the road.
Agreed. But, what does this mean? What kinds of hands-free systems could be in the pipeline? How involved are electronic suppliers in designing these new specs? We all know what a lucrative market this stands to be.
Maybe on Monday we'll hear some novel ideas. Next week, Ford Motor's executive chairman Bill Ford Jr. will be on stage at the Mobile World Congress talking about technology innovation and the “motoring experience.” Ford will be one of the first keynotes at the marquee event, and it marks the first time he will deliver a keynote technology speech in Europe.
I'm not surprised to see him on the agenda. I've noticed a lot more Ford ads on Barcelona television, indicating to me that the American car company is trying to build a stronger European presence. And, last year, a number of chip companies were on the show floor talking about how their technology will be used in cars, among other things.
What's more striking, though, is just how interdependent all these industries have become. A car executive keynoting at a mobile phone event? With new driving-car manufacturer guidelines being phased in, maybe that couldn't come soon enough.