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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
@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".
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.
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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