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 think there are already too many distractions for drivers and a TV service in the front seat seems like quite a foolish idea. I don't know enough about the accident rates in markets where this is available, but I can't imagine it does anything to help prevent them. And I think there should be more of that and less distraction considering how dangerous the roads already are!
Chuck, I agree with Elizabeth, as I expect you do. I was going to mention the situation with the navigation system if you hadn't. I first saw this while in Germany. I was in a fancy car that had an early built-in one. We were going to change destination based on a phone call one of us received. The driver had to pull over to do this. I thought at the time, what silliness. That would never be my thought today.
Having TV in the front seat is going in the wrong direction. I have seen the back seat screens act as a distraction for the driver in a following car. Frankly, the attitude toward safety in Asia is not as strong as it is in Europe and the US. We should continue to make this a priority.
Yes, naperlou, I didn't want to say anything about the standard of safety in Asia, but you're right, different cultures have different standards in this respect! That's fine for them, but that's no reason to slack off on automobile and driver safety in countries where there it is of the utmost concern.
Safety expectations are different but I certainly wouldn't put one country above another.
From my experience driving in Asia (car and motorcycle), it's very safe if you use common sense. The rules of the road aren't much different. What is different is the culture. Driving in many parts of Asia is like being in a school of fish. When the painted four lanes on the road aren't enough, somehow, five orderly lanes just happen and traffic moves. Nothing like this could occur in the US or Europe. Our driving, much like our culture, is more ego driven.
We also don't have the mind numbing traffic jams that move at less than 3 mph and last hours. Drivers, very likely, are watching something on a smartphone during that.
I do agree that this would not be safe in the US because we're not as good drivers.
The bigger question I have is why is it being considered? What need is this filling?
If drivers want front-seat TV, there will be a company to provide it. It's just a matter of time. Already, I'm tired of watching bad driving due to phone distraction -- the swerving, the spaced-out driver when the light turns green, and the drivers going 20 in a 40. Front-seat TV wilkl make the roads even more fun.
You're right, Rob. There will always be a a company willing to provide this, no matter how dangerous the technology is. This is such a new phenomenon that there are no specific federal laws covering it, but there might be state laws and some local laws might be written broadly enough to cover various types of electronic distractions. Let's hope regulators start paying attention to this.
Liz, I could easily see people using this feature, even when they may not intend to. If I'm driving along and I want to watch the World Series, the temptation might be too great to turn it on, and just to watch it "while I'm stuck in traffic." As you say, it's just a foolish idea.
Google Glass will be far more a problem than converting navagation screens because the videos will be in front of the driver's eye full time. Eyes will not be drawn away from the road, but attention will. I see big problems ahead.
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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