Cole, who knows the automotive market as well as anyone in the country, cites the lack of success of Tata Motors' Nano, a bare-bones city car that retailed for a scant $2,100 and still missed its mark, even in India's economically challenged market.
"It's been a bomb in the market," he said. "Many people don't want a car with no extra features."
The debate over cellphone use is also complicated by the question of whether a cellphone really is a distraction. Few would argue that texting while driving is a safety issue, but many phone users cite the availability of Bluetooth headsets to eliminate potential distraction. With Bluetooth, they say, a phone is no more a distraction than a car radio or a crying child in the back seat.
Still, Bluetooth technology doesn't help drivers deal with center console displays, many of which have gotten maddeningly complex. Some use as many as 15 buttons and require drivers to step through a menu of four or five nested screens, all of which qualify as a major distraction. Cole predicts that the auto industry will ultimately settle the problem with the development of reconfigurable displays that can change to meet the individual driver's needs. Those who have difficulties with complex features will be able to simplify the display to minimize the distraction, he said.
Of course, that won't help clueless drivers who seem incapable of understanding when they're distracted. "This is a huge dilemma for the industry," Cole said. "You're dealing with human nature here. People want what they want. And sometimes they want more than they should have."
To keep up with our EV coverage, go to Drive for Innovation and follow the cross-country journey of EE Life editorial director Brian Fuller. On his trip, sponsored by Avnet Express, Fuller is driving a Chevy Volt across America to interview engineers.
All communications equipment have gone through the gantlet of FCC regulations for the most part. We all understand that the safety of utilizing such equipment is paramount, but there are apparent parties with vested interests in Washington who have a major influence on the regulators when it comes to continuing to fill their deep pockets.
The PTT (referenced by William) button has been of the greatest value in the push for safety minded parties. All of those operators, whether licensed or not, who use the PTT when communicating, have a far greater record of safety than the drivers who use cell phones. I am a licensed HAM operator and I use the cell phone while in a vehicle. When I receive a call while driving, I inform the person on the other end that I am driving and will get back to them shortly, if I am unable pull over safely. The people who insist on continuing with their conversation are cut off with an apology and a click. If it is an emergency, then I am more polite about cutting them off.
Inappropriate head turning of the driver to look at a passenger can be viewed from the entertainment industry all the time. Totally wrong message!
I am a proponent of FCC licensing of cell phone usage while operating any vehicle and violators who put the rest of us in danger and should be punished severely in some manner.
William K, I couldn't agree with you more. Automakers will not take away the toys as long as drivers demand them. Every time I attend a press conference for one of these new tiys, the execs carry on for th first 15 minutes about safety, and about how saf their toy is. But if they really wanted greater safety, they wouldn't introduce these things.
Jack: When I spoke to researchers recently, they noted that teens are the most likely to exhibit the kind of "inherent politeness" behavior that you describe (this might surprise some parents of teens). Teen drivers tend to want to look at passengers when they talk to them, whereas experienced drivers know it's okay to look straight ahead.
One simple thing that I have suggested in several discussions about cell phone distraction would be to change the drivers communication to full simplex. That would be a PTT (push-to-talk) mode, identical to CB radio operation and the very early mobile phone modes, like in the 1960s. POlice, fire, and taxi communications have been using that mode for at least 60 years, and a great deal is known about how to keep it safe. One additional advantage is that it could reduce power consumption in the mobile device if the transmitter was only on while the user was talking. Of course it would require a huge change in habits, but it might improvepeoples manners, which would be an unintended consequence.
The implementation would definitely be a big deal, so it might not be the very best choice, but it is certainly an interesting possibility.
I like your analysis of the situation William. In addition, there is the "unconscious concern" (if you will) for the person on the other end of the phone. If you're reaching for your coffee and something happens on the road, you just don't reach for it. If you're talking with a passanger and you stop mid-sentence to handle a situation, your passenger is aware. However, they guy on the other end of phone does not know that anything is going on and will keep the conversation going. The inherent politeness of people will mean the driver will also try to respond not give 100% to the situation on the road.
The government needs to step in with greater license testing, not bans.
Automobiles drivers and airplane pilots were not require a have license when these vehicles were first brought on the scene. As the concerns for safety grew due to the ever increasing abilities of these vehicles and the number of people using them increased, licenses were designed and issued for that purpose. Education was soon required for anyone to pass the tests for each type of license. Now, with the trend towards ever increasing automotive electronic gadgetry there needs to be a corresponding increase in license testing for the safe use of these gadgets on the highways and streets, just as there are for pilots. There are far too many people involved to ignore this problem. It will not go away, but get worse with time as you say.
It's worth noting that the trend toward more electronic connectivity is going to get worse before it gets better. Virtually every concept car at this year's Detroit Auto Show was packed with systems aimed at helping connect the driver to GPS, phones and even Internet. Most of the concept cars are aimed at 2015 introductions or even later, so we can expect the distractions to get worse over the next few years.
Metal attendance to conversation is a condition that we have all been trained to participate in to a high degree (full attention). Such training or conditioning is important, but has its drawbacks. Face-to-face conversations may take the driver away from the task at hand for several minutes. The familiar radio and audio recordings (music or conversation) can take the driver into a transfixed metal area for quite some time or even the greater portions of an hour or more when travelling long distances.
The movie industry is being totally irresponsible by providing us with depictions of the driver turning to look at the passenger while carrying very long periods of casual and in depth conversations without regard for the speed at which the actors might be travelling. To see this is a great distraction for me while trying to take in a nice ride that the movie should be presenting.
In concept, the multi-tasking phenomena (per se) of computer timeshare (circa 1957-1987), has provided us with distractions that are relatively more recent. Competition for our perceived needs has further pushes us in to multi-tasking our activities.
The addicted to using a phone while driving is a problem, but the issue is not to break or change the habit, but to understand it and when such mental activity (complete attention) is required and necessary. It is like dressing properly for an occasion or purpose. It would appear that there are too many drivers who are not capable of this.
As long as there is the "greed factor", there will be manufacturers out there who would profit from lobbying to not allowing legislation to ban phones or other expensive 'toys'.
It has been admitted quite a while ago that at least 80% of all vehicle accidentrs are caused by driver inattention. The other 20% includes drunks, erors, and mechanical failures.
Now we get to the interesting question about the degree of distraction. Some tasks take a lot more attention for a much longer time, we all know that. Switching on the wiper or headlights only takes a little attention for a second or two. Drinking coffee, (not spilling it, just sipping it) takes a small degree of attention for several seconds, but spotting the cup to grab it only takes a very few seconds, and many can do it without ever taking their eyes off the road. Conversation may not require any visual effort, but keeping track of what is being said takes much more effort for times that may be many minutes. So there is agreat deal of difference in the kind of distraction, which many people choose to ignore. Carrying on a conversation takes a lot more attention than eating a hamburger, if one does not drop the burger. And spilling hot coffee in ones lap is quite distracting.
The problem is that we have a serious problem with serious consequences, and a fairly new industry with lots of money that does not want any problems found to be caused by it's products, since that would reduce the profits.
A very fundamental part of the problem is that people believe that they can multitask all the time, and that no task is so demanding that it takes 100% of ones concentration. Unfortunately both of those assertions are lies. But bad habits are very hard to break, and the fact that so many people are terribly addicted to being on the phone while driving is a real problem, and it will take a real effort to solve it.
Of course the auto companies are not helping by putting in more and more toys to provide driver distractions, to relieve drivers from the boredom of concentrating on driving. Unfortunately for all, the toys are a big profit item and will not go away without a fight that is bound to leave some injured.
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