Rob: Some of the new dashboard systems that are coming out are far more distracting than your CD case. Cadillac recently told me that the average center console display today has 17 buttons on it. And that number will undoubtedly go up.
The problem is that the automotive marketing wonks all are striving to have "the next big thing" be the one that they introduce. The problem is that those in the federal government have not been able to decide that these distractions make a vehicle unsafe. Instead we get stability systems as mandatory when the only folks that need them are beginning drivers.
JUst look at the huge variety of seatbelt buckles that we have hyad over the years. While most of them worked, they were all different. Anybody smarted than a dead monkey should have decided that there was only one good design, which looks a whoole lot like the ones in airliners. They all work the same way, and can be opened even when wearing thick mittens or gloves, with the left hand or with the right hand. This may seem a bit off-topic, but it demonstrates a chronic lack of good judgement. That is the point that I was making.
The problem with distracted driving does compile with other electronic devices in your car. While the use of GPS is amazing. It is unnerving as a passenger in a car to have the driver decide it is time to program in a destination address while going 65 MPH down the highway. Hands free operation would be great in this situation.
You're right, Chuck. It's hard to keep up with the new electronics and their demands on the driver. It's certainly a concern. I often wonder if I'm too distracted when I take a CD out of its case and put it in the player -- and put the last CD back in its case. If I had seven other electronic toys to play with, I might not be safe on the road.
In talking the researchers for this article and others, Rob, I've been struck by the fact that these electronics car products are rolling out faster than researchers can study them. By the time we really understand the effects of today's stuff, we'll have one or two more generations of electronic gadgetry on the road.
Good points, Chuck. With one quarter of all accidents caused by phone use in the car (National Safety Council), that's significant. I think we need a breakdown as to what is causing the accidents. Hands free calls, handheld phone calls, texting? My guess is that even hands free conversations are distracting.
Driving while texting should have a significant penalty associated with it. Likewise for driving while holding a cell phone. Where the situation grows more complex is in the case of complicated electronic gadgets, some of which are built into our cars. What should be done with the driver who slams into a parked car while changing songs through the center console display? After all, we're allowing -- maybe even encouraging -- auto companies to market this stuff.
I had a personal experience with this in 2004, when a woman reaching for her cellphone plowed into the rear end of my parked car from which my then very young son had exited less than 90 seconds earlier. I shudder to think what might have happened had the timing been different. So I have a real bug up my you know what about idiots who make non-hands-free calls when driving. I would have autos emit some kind of signal (say, a digital code that's rf modulated in the band that the cellphones use, which the phones would have to recognize and they'd only work via bluetooth. An expensive way to force hands-free compliance, but sounds feasible to me.
Truchard will be presented the award at the 2014 Golden Mousetrap Awards ceremony during the co-located events Pacific Design & Manufacturing, MD&M West, WestPack, PLASTEC West, Electronics West, ATX West, and AeroCon.
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