Restricting access to factory-installed navigation systems ranks among the most contentious issues facing U.S. auto-industry stakeholders and regulators following today’s announcement of a three-phase campaign to combat distracted driving.
The first phase, issued by the U.S. Department of Transportation, consists of 11 guidelines that closely follow an earlier set of protocols developed by the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers to help drivers stay focused on driving.
“We recognize that vehicle manufacturers want to build vehicles that include the tools and conveniences expected by today’s American drivers,” National Highway Traffic Safety Admin. chief David Strickland says in a statement.
“The guidelines we’re proposing would offer real-world guidance to auto makers to help them develop electronic devices that provide features consumers want – without disrupting a driver’s attention or sacrificing safety.”
One recommendation calls for disabling the destination-input function of navigation systems when vehicles are in motion “unless the devices are intended for use by passenger and cannot reasonably be accessed or seen by the driver unless the vehicle is stopped and the transmission lever is in park,” the DOT says today.
Enabling the vehicle to distinguish between driver and passenger is “one of those things we’re going to have to think about,” says AAM Vice President Gloria Berquist.
Toyota and Lexus have long mandated system inputs be limited to two button-pushes while its vehicles were in motion, notes Paul Williamsen, national manager the auto maker’s dealer-training unit, Lexus College.
But this goes for driver and passenger because the auto maker’s vehicles do not yet have the capability to determine with certainty the difference between a driver and passenger.
A solution likely could be developed quickly, Williamsen adds, but because most motorists travel alone most of the time “the cost wouldn’t add up.”
Other DOT measures include recommendations to:
- Reduce complexity and task length required by a device.
- Limit device operation to one hand only (leaving the other hand to remain on the steering wheel).
- Limit individual off-road glances required for device operation to no more than two seconds.
- Limit unnecessary visual information in the driver’s field of view.
- Limit the amount of manual inputs required for device operation.
The second phase of the campaign will examine the use of mobile devices in moving vehicles, while the final phase may address the distraction level of voice-activated technology.
Today’s guidelines come just a few months after National Transportation Safety Board Chairwoman Deborah Hersman issued a call to ban cell phones from vehicles, a position that drew loud protest.
Distracted driving linked to in-vehicle cell-phone use was a factor in some 3,000 traffic fatalities in the U.S. in 2010, the DOT says.