Integrating Mobility & Safety

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.

16 comments on “Integrating Mobility & Safety

  1. Jay_Bond
    February 23, 2012

    While some of this new technology is great, some of it just adds to the distractions already present. The most obvious change would be with voice controls. If you can speak to your GPS and then receive directions, you would have no need to look at the map or try to program it while driving. Clearly we can't stop everybody from doing things behind the wheel that are inapproriate while driving, but we can make tougher laws for those who choose to be unsafe. Enforce these laws, and some people will have second thoughts.

  2. ITempire
    February 23, 2012

    “Keeping eyes on the road and hands on the wheel is clearly the priority. “

    Few years back i saw a documentary of discovery channel where they tested a drunk man driving a car and a man who was talking on the mobile phone while driving. The outcome of the comparison based on the analysis by psychologists (or some other specialists) revealed that the concentration level on driving of both guys was similiar i.e. unacceptable for safety.

    The point I am trying to make is that importance of mind (concentration level) is as important as eyes and hands.

    While I see most communication or other tech devices as an obstacle to concentration of the driver, I also am unable to deny the numerous benefits that flow to the drivers. 

  3. Barbara Jorgensen
    February 23, 2012

    I wonder if the auto industry or an auto brand would ever consider changing its marketing strategy to advertise cars as a quiet haven away from it all. All the ads I see emphasize the bells and whistles of being constantly connected, yet my favorite part of driving (as long as I am alone) is listening to my music, not have three phones ringing and a bunch of other things going on all at once.

    There are a few like that–a Mom locks herself in a minivan to relax

    I think drivers should have the option to be connected, but encouraged not to use capability unless necessary (like OnStar and an accident.)

  4. Eldredge
    February 23, 2012


    Unfortunaltely, I don't think that encouraging drivers not to use the capability to be connected while driving will work. Connectivity is an addiction.


  5. elctrnx_lyf
    February 23, 2012

    I do not understand how government can do anything impactful to actually take care of this issue. If the person himself doen't care for himself how does the government imlications on automative mfrs will help. The only way is to spread across the awareness and let the people know the dangers associated with distracted driving.

  6. stochastic excursion
    February 23, 2012

    Devices targeted by proposed regulations are mainly those that interact visuals with hand operated input.  Since GPS has a visual component, even eliminating manual input may not keep it off the banned deviecs list.

  7. Barbara Jorgensen
    February 23, 2012

    I fear you are correct. Somehow, that's an addiction I have managed to avoid. Chocolate, on the other hand…

  8. prabhakar_deosthali
    February 24, 2012

    In case of any issue related to distracted driving, it is not only the distracted driver (and his vehicles occupants) who are at the risk of an accident, but they can also be the cause of accident to the vehicles following, leading or in the side lanes.

    Hence such issues caanot be left to just guidelines , but there have to be safety interlocks put in by the technology built into the vehicles  so that such distracted driving does not happen.

    Such safety interlocks could be in the form of disabling such features when the vehicle is in motion, checking the driver's eye balls and giving if audio alerts when he gets distracted  and so on.

  9. Eldredge
    February 24, 2012

    I suspect the types of interlocks that you suggest are planned in the implementation, but hte guidelines aren't going to be so detailed as to define how to accomplish it.

  10. ITempire
    February 25, 2012


    Well I think government can play a role. It can recommend traffic police officials to catch violators. I can impose safety regulations that need to be complied by the manufacturers if they are to put the product on market; i.e. by restricting them to install all necessary functions that are helpful in maintaining driver's concentration if he wants to use tech devices while driving. Orientations programmes for people applying for licenses is another way to ensure safety regulations are followed.

  11. ITempire
    February 25, 2012

    @ prabhakar

    “checking the driver's eye balls and giving if audio alerts when he gets distracted  and so on.”

    Such features, you are advising, would be very expensive to implement if even practicable. The question is, whether the car manufacturer are able to sell cars at an acceptable price after installing such functions. Is it practicable that every driver on road be taught about these advanced functions to be used and regulations to be followed?

  12. Jennifer Baljko
    February 25, 2012

    Barbara – You raise a good point, and I can completely reated to your Mom. With all this hyperconnectivity, it's hard to find one quiet place. Would love to see a car company market something like that.

  13. Jennifer Baljko
    February 25, 2012

    Stochastic – You may be right. If recommendations are aimed at reducing the input function and not at somehow changing the visual interaction, drivers will still be distracted.

  14. Jennifer Baljko
    February 25, 2012

    Prabhakar – You may be on to something with the safety interlock. More big brother kind of stuff, but actually sounds like something that could be a useful early-warning system.


  15. Jennifer Baljko
    February 25, 2012

    WaqasAltaf – Ah, yes, the cost of doing something like the safety interlocks @prabhakar mentioned. True, most things have an impractical side when weighing the manufacturer's total costs, easy-of-use for consumers, and government safety issues. Not sure where the compromise should be.

  16. bolaji ojo
    February 27, 2012

    Jenn, How much of all these is being driven by companies and their suppliers and how much is customer driven? Is the government more in the driver's seat of imposing regulations to enhance safety or are customers also as concerned?

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