Automakers told Design News that the emergence of this technology comes at a time when driver distraction awareness has reached a zenith. “Right now, we are looking down the barrel of strong opinion on the regulatory side,” said Hanson of Toyota. “Some are saying that cell phones don’t belong in the car at all. Forget about hands-free; forget about Bluetooth. They don’t want it in the car at all.”
Late in 2011, The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) called for the “first-ever nationwide ban on portable electronic devices,” including cellphones, in the vehicle.
Installers of the “nav-TVs” typically provide warnings about the potential dangers of the technology on their websites. “The vehicle driver must keep their eyes and attention on the road at all times,” writes one. “In some states, it is illegal to have a TV viewable by the driver when the vehicle is in motion.”
In an email, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) told Design News that there is no law prohibiting the use of televisions in the front seat of a vehicle, but the agency strongly discourages it from a safety standpoint.
One US-based automaker argued that even if government agencies fail to police the sale of the kits, automakers will hold fast. “As an automaker, there’s a responsibility you bear,” said one spokesman. “We want our customers to live and prosper and buy more cars.”
I guess simple design has fallen by the wayside, cookiejar. For years, I've said that automotive designers could learn from the engineers at Fisher-Price, who design kids' toys. Simple knobs, simple buttons. Today, when I look at some of the center consoles on rent-a-cars, I feeling like I'm flying a 747. What in the world are they thinking?
The hypocritical automakers talk a politically correct line when it comes to minimizing distractions. Unfortunately their designs of many of the car controls are a major contributor to driver distraction by forcing the driver to take his eyes off the road and fiddle with a confusing array of buttons and touch screens.
Back in the old days, you pulled on your headlight knob and you twisted the wiper knob. You could easily adjust your radio tuning, volume and push button station select with no need to take your eyes off the road. Your turn signal lever did only one thing and you had a button on the floor for changing from high beam to low beam. Similarly you could adjust temperature with a lever, direct air to defrost and set the fan speed with no need to look. All controls had a distinct feel.
These days, the "older design" cars have a mass of push buttons on the dash, the door and the steering wheel. You have to squint at some LED or LCD to see what mode you are in. The "advanced design" cars force you to go through a menu on your LCD display. The arrangement of functions on the turn lever seems to change at every model.
I suppose in some auto fashionista's mind we're overdue to a shuffling of the pedals and a reversal of the steering wheel direction.
With all the distraction being built-in, added on and brought into cars these days, distracted driving is overtaking drunk driving as a major cause of carniage on our roads. The automakers are a major contributor to horendous personal losses on our roads, for which they prefer to blame the buyers, who really have no choice in the matter.
Yes, Chuck, I always thought the navigation systems, which were meant to help, were a big distraction and weren't as helpful as they were meant to be. But I never properly used a car with navigation, so I can't really speak to it. I'm sure people end up using it quite a lot without any negative incidents.
Well said, Liz. There are just too many distractions today and, ironically, the auto industry is behind the use of some of them. Navigation systems are indeed a distraction. So are iPods. For that matter, so are cell phones. But automakers accommodate the use of those devices in the vehicle. The trick is to get public opinion behind this issue. The problem is that many people want to eliminate the things they don't use (i.e., TVs), but not the features (i.e., navigation, iPods, phones) that they do use.
Texting is especially dangerous, yes, but so is changing the song on the iPod or MP3 player (which also requires attention to a device), talking on the phone or watching a map or TV while driving. There are too many distractions, in my opinion, period. One more like a front-seat TV would be a really bad decision and I'm glad the US market is not behind it.
Bobjengr, Your stats show one evident truth: texting is dangerous because of the time it takes away from the road. Hitting keys on a device as small as a phone is difficult and time-consuming even if the message is short.
Good points, Chuck. I believe regulators will start to pay attention to this when deaths can be attributed to driver distraction due to front-seat TVs. Until then, my guess is that the market is wide open.
I know exactly what you mean, Chuck. I never watch TV, but here in Portugal most bars and restaurants even have TVs in them. Even though I don't really care much what's on it's hard not to watch when there is one present. So the temptation to watch even though you know you shouldn't or you don't even want to would be far to great, in my opinion, for this to be safe.
Charles I agree with you there will always be an organization willinig to provide this technology but according to me this is not the matter of laws and regulations its is a matter of understanding one should be capable enough to understand that it is harmfull lhaving or watching tv on front seat of the car .Secondly the issue is not driver watching the television but if someone else watching in the car the rays can disturb the driver as well.
Design engineers need to prepare for a future in which their electronic products will use not just one or two, but possibly many user interfaces that involve touch, vision, gestures, and even eye movements.
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