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.
Nice video, Chuck. Now that's distracting. That has to be at least up there with dialing a cellphone number. And I can't imagine drivers pulling off the road just to change a radio station. That visual screen is far more distracting than the memory buttons on older radios.
That's interesting, Chuck, that they address safety when introducing the distracting items. Does that also include suggested use? Do they indicate that some of these devices need to be used/adjusted when the car is at a stop?
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.
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