In January, The National Transportation Safety Board called for a ban on the use of cell phones and text messaging on the road, a radical recommendation to curb the rising number of crashes caused by “distracted driving.” Yet even as data comes to light showing the high correlation between mobile technology and crashes (some studies estimating that distracted drivers are responsible for more than a quarter of all crashes), car makers are loading their vehicles with more extravagant features than ever before.
Ford is among the first auto manufacturers that are synthesizing vehicles with smartphone applications. Their SYNC AppLink software is already factory-installed in their flagship models, offering drivers mobile apps similar to those found on iPhones or Androids. Drivers will almost certainly be able to search the Internet or check for social media updates while travelling at 60 mph in the near future. With radio and GPS apps on the road today, it isn’t hard to imagine a day where the automobile serves as a robust communication and entertainment device as well as a vehicle.
An excess of mobile technology has made the road a more dangerous place, so auto OEMs are feeling pressure to protect consumers from themselves. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration proposed some voluntary guidelines for designing vehicular “infotainment” systems, which aim to continue the growth of cutting edge technology without sacrificing the driver’s attention. As a result, many automobile apps lock up when the car is in motion, while others have been outfitted with voice-activation technology.
Of course, roadside technology isn’t necessarily dangerous - some apps may actually help to increase driver awareness. Today, many automobiles come equipped with fuel-monitoring applications which help users optimize their gasoline economy. Internet functionality will also give global positioning systems ability to better predict traffic, which may actually make roads safer. Additionally, apps to keep drivers awake, which already exist on smartphones, might integrate well with vehicles - especially if cars can tell if you’re tired.
As always, the opinion we care most about is the dealer’s. Will these technological advances help you sell cars? Is it worth the trade-off in safety? Tell us what you think about this emerging debate in transportation safety by leaving a comment below. And if you liked this blog post, subscribe to receive updates when we post new ones.