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?
I'm from Massachusetts, and clearly listed in the RMV manual for my driver's license exam almost 40 years ago was a prohibition on TV reception viewable by the driver while the car was in motion (MGL, Ch. 90, Section TBD). I expect most other states have similar laws. However, the law says nothing about what you're doing while the car is parked. Many aftermarket car entertainment systems have DVD viewing capability and some Blu-Ray players are available. I looked at them once, and asked the salesman about the law that forbids viewing while the car is moving. He replied that the system has an electrical connection to the car's park or neutral switch that prevents operation when the car is shifted out of Park (or when the clutch is relesed with the car in gear for manual transmission cars). Adding a similar interlock for the on-board navigation system would be very simple (you might already have all of the hardware electrical connections, so you would just have to change the firmware).
Given that many navigation systems already interface with and may control the radio, many of the pieces are already in place, it's just a matter of time before one car manufacturer puts it all together and offers it for sale as original equipment. I agree, it's probably not a great idea, but if it's going happen anyway, it's better that someone thinks about how to minimize the risks rather than implementing it in an unsafe way via the back alleys of the aftermarket.
So many opinions; only one life to live. I saw a UPS driver the other day in my neighborhood with white ear buds stuck in his head. It is about culture *and* ethics. In other countries, people value their freedoms and reputations. Here you see it every day as the rich and fast go as far up the pending closed lane until they have to dive into the flowing lanes and make everyone in back skip a heartbeat. There's a reason why the autobahn can go as fast as is safe. People who do are skilled and considerate, usually. And people who are reckless or impaired are stopped, for ever. The culture here has changed. Truck drivers used to be the smartest high speed merge facilitators. Now they hate all passenger cars because they've been screwed too many times to be charitable with consideration. Now they feel nothing about tying up the passing lane for half a cross-state drive or never moving over to the slow lane on hills. I don't care about texting or TVs in drivers' attention impairment. I just think we should put cameras on every driver on highways and prosecute them sufficiently with the laws we already have. You're on a public highway; drive like god, the governor, your mother and mother superior are all watching. I've given up on manufacturers, legislation and insurance underwriters doing the right thing. It is all about that carbon-based critter at the controls.
NadineJ says "I certainly wouldn't put one country above another" followed by "Our driving, much like our culture, is more ego driven." and "this would not be safe in the US because were not as good drivers". Hmmmm.
I would disagree that this is a "cultural" issue (as though Asian's don't care if someone is killed so another person can watch a rerun of Zatoichi?). It's more likely that since they are late adopters of the car lifestyle, the public hasn't been quite as outraged by the deaths caused by abuses yet. It took decades here for MAD to affect drunk driving laws. Asia will catch up with us, eventually.
However, I would disagree that this isn't already happening here. Not too long ago Mercedes had an add campaign touting their NAV system's touch screen and it's ability to surf the web. This is far worse than TV. Touch screens because they don't require a quick glance but a prolonged interaction. The web because, again, it's interaction rather than background noise.
@3drob-those are interesting words to put in my mouth but nowhere near what I was expressing.
Comments like "Asia will catch up with us eventually" just reiterates the "we are superior" attitude that many Westerners have.
As someone who has driven in Asia, North America and Europe, I can say there are definitely cultural differences. All humans hold the same ethics. I've never met anyone who, as you suggest, doesn't "care if someone is killed so another person can watch a rerun of Zatoichi".
Nadine, please don't take offense. Only the first paragraph of my post was a response to your post, and I was merely quoting your words (not mine).
However, contrary to your assertion, I'm not suggesting that there are no cultural differences between Asia and the west with regard to driving. Only that their indifference to obvious (and easily preventable) driving hazards now is no different than the same indifference we had in the west only a few decades ago.
They WILL catch up. Or technological advancement will make this controversy moot.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
I hate my car navigation system because it will not let me program it while I am moving. When this happens I use my cell phone. With the cell I now have to hold it, focus on it and drive. Wouldn't it be safer to just let me use the car navigation system. If you take too many controls away, people will find another way to do the same thing if that is important to them. I hope that no one is watching TV and driving, but if I agree to blocking TV, I fear how many other elements of life they will take away in the process. You know that you can watch TV on your cell phone now!
With the navigation system, I agree that it is difficult to find the button, push them, and drive. Voice commands would solve this. I don't know if they block voice commands for programming in-vehicle navigation systems while moving. I hope not. If they do I do not plan to by the fancy stereo, nav station, video player in my next minivan. I will fall back on my cell again. It has voice commands functionallity and it works while moving.
So many states in the U.S. have enacted legislation banning cellphones AND texting, and NOW some geniuses invent an even more consequential technology??? That's just ludicrous!!!! It's too bad that the designers of the dash-screens didn't foresee this eventuality, and make the screen communications & display totally incompatible w/ TV reception, either by embedded coding or some other firmware method.
Florida's legislature wraps up it's agenda at midnight tonight. There was a bill pending, which heretofore didn't see the light of day, regarding making it illegal to text while driving. However, in this current legislative session, the bill got through committee, but has since died. While, personally I'm NOT against cellphone use while driving, I AM totally against texting while driving. In my case, I travel approx. 35 miles to work each day on a major highway with a posted speed limit of 55 MPH. I see so many occurrences of erratic driving BECAUSE of inattention due to texting. In a mocking action of texters, when at a traffic light, I sometimes remove a loafer, and put it to my ear, or place it on the steering wheel so others can see me "communicating with my SHOE!!!! A deputy sheriff spotted it once, and laughed out loud. Then the light turned green, and we were off to the races again!
The video screen built-in to my rearview mirror has two inputs as has the larger 7" one that I attach to the windscreen when on holiday (vacation). Normally they display the signal from the camera that is just above my numberplate and in-line with the ball of my tow-hitch and is only active when I reverse (back-up) - that makes it easy to hitch up a trailer or caravan as well as avoiding obstacles (and feral children) when reversing.
When I'm towing a caravan, I use the larger screen and the second input is used for a camera on the back of the van as the caravan blocks the normal rearview mirror. In this way I can see small cars that creep up behind me and can be missed in the wing mirrors. I have that input switched to stay on when selected.
The documentation for the displays assumes that the second input will be from a DVD player or some other entertainment source!
If safety is your PRIMARY concern - Don't Drive! Common sense, folks. You know, that stuff your parents tried to teach you. It is the responsibility of the DRIVER to determine and establish the safe and effective operation of their vehicle. Not the auto makers and certainly not the government (God forbid).
What about the front seat passenger? Why should they be penalized and restricted from watching a movie during a long boring trip. Why is the front seat passenger also restricted from making changes to the navigation system?
It all boils down to common sense and self control. I would like to see the automakers free to offer products their customers want and I don't want the government telling me when and where I can sneeze or be fined.
If someone is observed operating a vehicle dangerously, then you go after them. You don't penalize an entire population permanently for something that might happen to one in a million.
Well, g-whiz, the government regulates a lot of behaviors, and that's true of both conservatives and liberals. What if a cell phone using driver killed or maimed a loved one? Would you defend him in court by saying he was just exercising his freedom of speech? Maybe drunken driving should be legal, too. Maybe we should let airline pilots and truck drivers work 80 hours a week if they want to.
Yes, drivers have responsibility but we all have responsibilities every day. Without laws, though, many people would have no interest in staying responsible. And their victims would have no avenue to justice.
Laws are not written to prevent crime, nor to make criminal activity more difficult. They exist merely to keep honest people honest. Just like locks. That said, I used to read paper mail while driving up the road from the post office in my home town (it was a lightly-travelled highway, and the most likely thing I would have hit was a deer, which I could have hit regardless of the mail). Was it stupid? Yes. Did I have any accidents that way? No. I was lucky. In fact, I have had two serious accidents in my current vehicle, and those were not due to reading texts or mail. One I was rear-ended at a stop light, another I was distracted putting my soda back into the cup holder. Maybe they should make it illegal to have a soda in the car, too? Anyhow, I do not agree with the fact that we have these laws on the books because I would like to think that most people are intelligent enough not to make those mistakes. Unfortunately, I am intelligent, and I still made them, so we need laws to protect us from our own stupidity. As the engineering meme goes, "When you design a system to be idiot-proof, nature adapts, by making better idiots." It looks like we now need to apply that meme to the law as well.
What would be useful is a tuner and receiver for the audio only of live television. There was a service here, AutoTalk, that used the SAP channel when television was analog, to provide continuous traffic reports; for all other channels, it received the audio feed. The company seems to be defunct.
If it causes more accidents, the insurance companies will have the stats to prove it. Then it will just be a matter of time before it's an added premium to have such a unit, or just a refusal to cover vehicles with one installed. Portable DVD players and cell phones are hard to police. But I can see a claim being denied because a dashboard screen was modified to display TV or movies.
Given the litigious nature of North Americans, this may be another one of those cultural differences being mentioned.
Honestly, I don't think a display throwing light into the cabin near the driver is a good idea. Personally, I find it hard to see at night when the passenger turns on a cell phone display to answer a call or check messages. The driver should not be watching anything other than the roadway.
I am not against the use of cell phones while driving and think it is silly to have laws and company policies against there use, but I do think the driver needs to use a lot more consideration when making a judgement to use a cell phone other than traffic congestion and personal driving skill level.
Everyday I drive across town from 55mph rural blacktop through 25mph residential street and wonder how could you not see that giant beaver crossing the road or how could you possibly think that your constant migration to or across the center line is safe or driving on the center line is okay. Twilight and dusk are the worse times to drive, yet people will use a cell phone and still drive too fast. Animals move around during these times and you would drive slower if the weather was poor.
Excellent post, Chuck. I do think that TV is probably a bridge too far in terms of safety concerns (and potential litigation). It's interesting but not surprising that Toyota isn't too keen on the idea. But we'll see how consumer sentiment shifts on this issue, and if any manufacturer introduces it to test the market.
Yes, Al, Toyota's comment was very interesting. It was interesting for me because they were one of the rare few who were willing to comment on this topic. Other automakers declined, even though I know they were against the concept. Hats off to Toyota.
Excellent points, Bobjengr. Now, can you imagine what it would be like to watch the World Series or the NCAA basketball tournament instead of listen to it while driving? If there were two out in the bottom on the ninth with the score tied and the bases loaded, would you be able to keep yourself from turning your head and looking at the screen while driving? I don't think I would. Even the most well-intentioned people would get distracted at times. This would be much worse than all of the terrible things you mentioned in your comment, and people would die needlessly.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 question of whether engineers could have foreseen the shortcut maintenance procedures that led to the crash of American Airlines Flight 191 in 1979 will probably linger for as long as there is an engineering profession.
More than 35 years later, the post-mortem on one of the country’s worst engineering disasters appears to be simple. A contractor asked for a change in an original design. The change was approved by engineers, later resulting in a mammoth structural collapse that killed 114 people and injured 216 more.
If you’re an embedded systems engineer whose analog capabilities are getting a little bit rusty, then you’ll want to take note of an upcoming Design News Continuing Education Center class, “Analog Design for the Digital World,” running Monday, Nov. 17 through Friday, Nov. 21.
Focus on Fundamentals consists of 45-minute on-line classes that cover a host of technologies. You learn without leaving the comfort of your desk. All classes are taught by subject-matter experts and all are archived. So if you can't attend live, attend at your convenience.