Thanks for the comprehensive overview of what auto makers are planning to enable consumer device connectivity in cars, Chuck. I have to say that I totally agree that access to texting, email, cell phones, etc. is a huge distraction and I am personally guilty of letting eyes off the road too long to sneak off a text. That said, I don't think it's realistic to ban such devices from the car. They are too much a part of people's everyday lives--an appendage of sorts. I think that the auto makers' concerted focus on improving the HMIs to make them more natural and advancing voice recognition will eventually pay off in terms of addressing these issues. Even with these advances, though, the problem will always remain a challenge, and it definitely demands that drivers employ some sort of common sense.
I like the idea of a glass cockpit, so to speak, but to draw another parallel to aviation the pilot needs to spend more time looking out the windshield. The idea of blinking LEDs being used to gather the driver's attention back to the windshield seems like it might be a good idea, and I'd like to see if that works in the real world. It's shameful to see how distracted drivers are; eating, reading the paper, filing fingernails, looking at passengers while they talk, and worst yet, none of those examples involved entertainment devices. Really, the devices are just another form of distraction and they are not the root cause of the problem, but just once I would like to see a cop drive by that wasn't talking on his cell phone.
Yes Naperlou, I too have seen people applying make-up while driving. Or eating while driving (perhaps not as bad), But when I'm sitting at a light and it turns green and the car in front of me doesn't move, it always seems to be an electronic device. I don;t know how this will get solved between now and the time that cars that drive themselves.
I think I've reached the point where I can tell if a distracted driver is on his or her cellphone. Thankfully, those drivers usually goslower, not faster. Often the car is wandering (a slow version of weaving from lane to lane). Usually, if I see those two things, I can take a pretty good guess that the driver is either drunk or talking on a cellphone. I'm not convinced that the drunk is any worse than the cell phone user.
I agree, Chuck, about drunk not being necessarily worse than distracted b electronics. I've noticed that texting seems to be far worse than simply talking on the phone. Most of the activity I see is at red lights. The light turns green and the driver simply doesn't move.
Of course, another potential problem is my 16-year-old daughter when she's driving a stick. The light changes from red to green and she starts out into the intersection then stalls right in the middle when she doesn't get the clutch-to-acceleator right. Then she panics and wants to get out of the car. Then Dad yells. It's worse than texting.
Ever been tooling along the interstate, "in the driving zone" (on autopilot, as it were), having driven more than 40 miles from the previous waypoint, car is quiet, no radio, when the GPS suddenly says "in 2 miles, make a right", startling you almost into swerving into the next lane?
I agree with you that another 'reminder' device won't address the true root cause (which is focusing on the wrong priorities when driving). If anything, this well-intended reminder may actual contribute as another distraction itself. I can see where certain driver groups (i.e. my teenager) will just choose to ignore this 'annoying' little device while happily typing away on their cellphone.
(Better still, maybe I should have a parent option of jamming all occupant cell phone signals while the engine is running...)
My built-in Navigation system has a lock-out when the vehicle is in motion. This is especially annoying when the passenger is trying to use it. But, the hard disk music library doesn't have an in-motion lockout. So a driver could play as much as he/she wanted with that. This contradiction makes no sense to me.
And, I was looking at a Honda Gold Wing. It had AM/FM/CD/CB-radio/Intercom controls, heated seat, heated grips, Nav system, and I don't know what else might have been included. I couldn't imagine playing with these while riding a motorcyle. But I also blanched when I saw the price tag.
I HATE my commute, and it's really not a bad one. It's time I wish I could do something else. The distractive technologies can be used if another technology can ever get off the ground.
Autonomous vehicles would solve many of the problems caused by distractive electronics. We've talked about it in other articles, and the people who pitch "personal people movers" (a.k.a. your own car) when trying to fight mass transit have a point that no one really wants to get rid of their car to ride a bus.
Microsoft runs its own bus system in the Seattle area (the Microsoft Connector). You get driven to work, and you have wi-fi connectivity. Microsoft's thinking is that people will do more work while getting to and from work. Can't argue with that.
Autonomous vehicles should mean better traffic flow, less accidents, and more time to be disctracted the way we wish to be.
I've been lucky with my commutes over the years. It's nothing to complain about. But, like many here, I have seen woman applying make-up, men shaving, teens texting and seniors turning away from the road to hold conversations with passengers...it's scary out there!
I agree with TJ and I think the new technologies have already started. Advanced Parking Guidance Systems offered today are a first step.
We want the convenience and individuality our personal cars allow with the ease of public transportation like buses and planes.
Kudos to companies who recognize the trend and are trying to stay ahead of it responsibly.
I agree - but after sitting in bumper-to-bumper lines waiting to get thru long red light intersections, the highway is actually quite refreshing for the quick 15-20 minutes that I am on it. But I do envy my peers who live farther away and commute on the train. Autonomy in the cars would be like a train ride ,,,,
"You can't say that drivers shouldn't do anything but drive," Oh yes you can. Here in the UK using a mobile phone while driving is a criminal offence punishable by a £60 fine ($95) and 3 points on your driver's licence. Get 12 points within 3 years and you lose your licence for six months.
I agree with ChrisG 100%. Here in Montreal you will get a fine if you have your cellphone in your hand while driving. I'm surprised at how many people are ok with distracted driving being "normal" in today's connected world. I'm sure you would change your mind if some idiot texting on their cellphone runs over your kid because they missed the stop sign. Driving needs 100% of your attention because you CAN kill someone and/or get yourself killed every single time you drive. Period. I would have the new systems automatically fine the driver for distracted driving instead of blinking an LED to remind the driver to focus on driving. If you NEED to send that text while driving then you are disorganized and I don't think it's a fair tradeoff to increase the chance of killing someone because of that.
Or not. Some high-end touring bikes have just as many accessories as a car. Helmets have person-to-person radios, CB radios and cell phones access built in.
As a rider, I find this scary. It's bad enough that most drivers don't "see" us and we're responsible to make sure we see them. Don't add a mix of chatting on your phone and checking your GPS into that.
If and only if, they come out with a heads up display that I can see the road through will I use gadgets like that on my motorcycle.
I find no shortage of CLUELESS drivers. Oblivious to surrounding traffic, unaware of their upcoming exit/intersection. I have seen drivers weave all over the road, including crossing the center line going up hills!
As other posters note, some people know how to drive, and can deal with on-board electronic gadgets. They know when to drop their devices, and when to use them. Too many drivers don't. And we are now talking about foisting more distractions onto people with no clue how to drive?
The USA is funny that way - Start taking away little personal freedoms, and where do you draw the line? It would also be logical that ladies eye-liner and reading a paper map would technically fall into the same category, if a law were drafted. The Supreme Court takes "Land of the Free" very seriously. But it all boils down to simple personal responsibility. It's not going to be the Supreme courts fault if some idiot kills themselves (or worse, someone else); yet governments so often feel the need to intervene and teach common sense by enacting laws. I put the responsibility on myself and on every individual. Problem is, Common Sense is not so common.
I believe that we should all have our freedoms, but not at the cost of someone else's life or quality of life. To many people whine and cry about how we would be violating their rights and freedoms if we constrain them from using these wonderful tools in their cars; and they are Wonderful "tools". However, if they're going to do so, they should be prepared to be held accountable for any accident, injuries or deaths they are responsible for while attempting to drive and use their "precious technology". Try comforting a mourning parent (of any aged child) or loved one when you're trying to explain to them why your video message to their friend on Facebook was worth the life of one of their loved ones. We're all so busy trying to stay "connected", we forget about the fundamental reasons we are connected; our humanity, not our technology. The bottom line is, measure the importance of what your doing, if its that improtant for you to do so, take it off the road and do so safely and with concern for those around you.
And your right, from the dawn of the automotive age man has "checked his brain" when he steps behind the wheel of "the car" (or bars of the "cycle" for that matter).
I have to disagree. The distracted car driver has a 2 ton cocoon for protection. The distracted motorcyclist doesn't, and tends to be a short-lived species. The motorcyclist is aware of and either avoids or reacts to the hazards, or is injured/dead.
I have seen a lot drivers who "check their brains". Around here traffic circles are popping up. Drivers love them or hate them. The consesnsus among those who love them is the circles are fast and easy to navigate (observation and decision making is required from approach all the way through to exit). The consensus among those who hate them is they are confusing, chaotic and dangerous. There were many editorials in local papers, but the consistent pattern among those who hate circles was they are conditioned to step on the gas for a green light, step on the brake for a red. Anything beyond that they can't handle.
It again comes down to pay attention, observe what is happening around you(situational awareness). If a driver can't handle a distraction, then the driver should eliminate it (it's that personal responsibility thing again!)
You're right, Jim-T, the U.S. is funny that way. When the National Transportation Safety Board called for a ban on in-car electronics during December, there was an outcry coming from all directions. No one, it seems, was willing to give up their cell phone.
"Limit the duration of off-road glances to a scant two seconds" is not comforting. I was on the highway last night and in the space of five minutes the car in the lane next to mine decided she wanted in my lane (I was still in it) and the car ahead of us braked suddenly and hard. Two second distractions in either case would have resulted in an accident. Instead, I was able to react and prevent a collision. If someone wants to engage in risky behavior that only involves themselves – that is their choice. But if someone drives while texting (or drunk for that matter) they are not just putting themselves at risk, they are putting everyone around them at risk. I am a very strong believer in not having over-regulation and freedom of choice, but what can be done when people continue to make stupid choices that places everyone around them in danger? Yes, you can ban it!
Not all of us are fighter pilots. They are screened, selected, trained and screened again - then they are allowed to fly into battle, in formation, while talking, planning, setting up, arming, cross-checking and scanning the air for bandits.
No matter what the car companies come up with, you find some people can do it and some poeple cannot do it. This includes your basic driving.
Maybe drivers should take a multi-tasking tests and get an endorcement on their license - the rest should keep their eyes on the road.
A decade or so ago we did a display for truck drivers because they needed to keep in contact with their offices and sometimes families. It was a 10 inch panel mounted near the instrument panel where messages could be displayed. Since the ICC said the thing had to remain dark when the vehicle was moving, we used voice synthesis to read the messages. Using the best technology of the time. (It also was the forerunner of modern GPS guidance.)
Fast forward to today and everybody has this urgent need to be in contact with everybody and get all sorts of info while they are underway. My solution includes the edict that if you don't provide a hands and eyes busy solution, you deserve to have the driver fumbling. If, on the other hand, we supply SIRI-like actions possible inside the car (probably in my phone through my car), then we all have no excuse when a cop send us to jail if we take our eyes off the road.
And the car guys have to get into the act -- I have am upper level SUV but did not purchase the $5,000 "tech package" that contains GPS display, etc. and therefore my phone will only wirelessly connect with the car for telephone. Even though every bluetooth chip will handle all of the protocols including those that connect everything I do with my phone, that is turned off so i won't do it instead of XM, or buy the worse-than-my-phone GPS. All of us now have smartphones that will connect, it's up to the car manufacturers to stop blocking us from doing that. Until that time, I and every young adult on the planet has the perfectly good excuse that my car wouldn't let me do it.
There is no excuse if we make it illegal. People may say that they WANT this stuff in their car. Maybe it's time to say, "No, you can't HAVE that stuff in your car."
Why hasn't anyone mounted a televison in the dashboard so the driver can glance over and watch the news or a movie while he's driving? That technology has been around for a long time. the reason? Because it was decided, and rightly so, that it is too DANGEROUS.
I have driven around for years with a 2-Meter Ham radio in my car. The microphone attached to the radio via a coiled cord rested in my lap most of the time. I would listen most of the time and pick up the mic once in a while to talk. Even then if traffic required more attention, I could just drop the mic.
The first time I tried to got a call on my cell phone while driving, I was shocked at how much it took away from my driving. I now have a bluetooth headset and still don't like to use the cell phone while in motion but I'm an old geezer and not totally addicted to my phone yet. (I can see that the iPhone I got last month is far more dangerous than my old phone that was only good for talking!)
You actually have to study the (awkwardly-placed) display whilst twiddling the control knob to achieve even the most basic in-car function.
How a performance-orientated car company can introduce a gadget that actually needs the driver to take his eyes off the road for serious amount of time is beyond me. Certainly explains the average standard of BMW driving..
Once such accident-increasing gadgets become mainstream, the "X-Box for the car" can only be just around the corner.
I must be getting old. Madness like this seems to recur. Not that long ago, those of us who condemned drunk drivers as killers met the same indifference, even righteous indignation, by those who insisted on such dangerous behavior. There were even outspoken "useful idiots" supporting them from industries that benefit by their recklessness. It took a frightening toll of lives and maimed bodies before public sentiment turned against those who insist that "one for the road" is their right. It appears that we must go through that learning curve again, complete with deaths, injuries, damage, and even the next generation of the "useful idiots" from supporting industries. In the immortal words of Pogo, "We have met the enemy and they are us!"
The sad truth is that 80% of all traffic collisions are caused by a lack of driver attention. Of course, this includes drunks, who are unable to pay attention, but it also includes a whole lot of people who were not drinking at all.
Probably nothing will be done that will actually change the situation, at least not until some really tragic deaths occur. But even after that, the response will be incorrect for the simple reason that there is too much money to be made offering all of those expensive distractions. Also the public sector would resist a whole lot. But then, how many forlks would like to go back to a car like my 1965 Valiant, which the only distraction was an AM radio with two knobs.
Unfortunately a whole generation is growing up that is unable to focus on anything, and they will not be able to pay attention to driving. What will we do when there are thousands of drivers on the road who are not able to focus on the task of driving a car? Does anyone have a concept on how to handle that situation when it arrives?
@WilliamK: As much as we all dislike the idea of handing over control of the vehicle to a machine, I believe we will keep seeing the inattention problems you've described until the autonomous vehicle arrives. In fact, with all the electronic junk that's being put into today's vehicles, the inattention problem may well get worse. So we're stuck with lousy drivers for another 30 years or so.
I have lived in Australia for couple of years, I find it amusing when people talk about driving conditions in china, India, SE Asian countries. I See atleast a minimum of 1 driver on Texting, some even having breakfast, taking a right turn without indicators. one hand (few fingers ) on the wheel. The technology could be made If the driver takes of his hand from the steering wheel for 3 seconds. It gives a alarm or slows down. When they remove the hand from the Steering wheel, it can be overiden only when the hand is on the gear shifter. If the hand is free doing something, reduce the speed. All Steering wheel should be palm scanned. Even if there is a car Jack. The vehicle locks up. I Just cannot attend the phone while driving. Pull over, tell them will call you back.
There's an idea, forget about the LED, let's have a deadman's switch. You're right, most of the time I see people not using their signal, it's because they have the other hand on the phone stuck against their head, or worse, in their lap.
Perhaps the solution to driver distraction does not consist of vehicle automation. Consider that at least so far, none of the things added to attempt to improve safety does the right thing 100% of the time. The ABS makes stops much slower on gravel and deeper snow, traction control encourages understeer, and stability control systems will ultimately cause a disaster for drivers correcting a skid proerly. It is simply not possible to create a control system that will handle all exceptions correctly. The same algorithm that may protect a 16-year old beginning driver would probably kill me by preventing a corrective maneuver.
Really, a better choice would be to inhibit the airbag deployment if a cell phone was in use, so that those drivers who don't pay attention would be a bigger hazard to themselves. By adding a signifigant stake to the driving game it may be possible to remove the feeling of secure invinceability. That might do more to improve safety than anything else.
As for the taffic circle idea, they simply can't work here in Michigan, where a whole lot of drivers just will not use them correctly. We routinely see this with cars rushing down a lane that is closed ahead, so as to cut in front of everybody. That sort of attitude is hard to change, and causes problems with anything requiring polite merging.
In joint study my company conducted with oakland university school of business, we found the consumers complaining about the same thing they are doing and looking for a better way to do it. as we learned,over and over,forcing a human behavior change is difficult and not 100% effective. my conclusion is that if this human behavior can be mitigated without additional damage,than it is a reasonable approach.
Some of the readers mentioned DUI and that brings to mind the prohibition. its failure and the unintended consequences of creating or boosting organized crime. another,less extreme campaign is the 55mph.
My research can best be summarized in my articulation of what is the"rootcause" of distraction while driving and the classification of the various types of distractions that humans can experience in general and while driving.
Briefly,distraction is not caused by radios and cell phones. Distraction is caused by our instincts and uncontrollable physiologicalresponses. Instinctively, humans are competitive, social, greedy,and seek self satisfaction. what helps us staying conscious of what we are doing is our learned values as wegrow up. But as is the case with anylearned behavior,instinct still creeps in every once in a while for various reasons,including use of cell phone in an unsafe manner while driving.
In addition to instinctive behavior that leads us to indulge in whatever we like, we also have physiological responses that are designed to save us from danger, but end up causing us to get distracted. A good example of these physiological responses is our response to sounds. A simple example to that is the way we automatically look at a phone when it rings. A more difficult to observe reaction is the change in our pupils geometry when the phone rings because the frequency in cell phones is intense and stimulates our Amygdala (The primitive part of the brain where all survival reactions are triggered).
Based on this conclusion, I classify the symptoms of distraction are Reflex Distraction, Impulse Distraction and Life Style distraction. In the Driver Distraction group I run on Linked In, many of the participants from around the world agreed with my conclusions, but with their own additions here and there. Additionally, I have found many research papers that talk about these symptoms but never tie them up all together or tie them up to distractions. The summary of these distractions symptoms are:
Reflex Distraction: Distraction caused by reflex triggered by sensory stimuli and
is not controllable by the driver.
Impulse Distraction: Distraction caused by Emotional Thoughts or triggered by an
Instinctive Response to a Reflex Distraction and maybe
controllable by the driver.
Life Style Distraction: Willing and systematic performance of activities creating
dangerous risks (Known AND / OR Likely to cause Distraction
that leads to Near Miss, Accidents and Death). This is
triggered by poor education at first, but then, the behavior is
perpetuated by several Instinctive Responses. This type of
distraction creates unnecessary Work Load and is controllable
by the driver.
So a solution should prevent reflex distraction, moderate impulse distraction and force indeviduals with lifestyle distraction to change their behavior behind the wheel, by allowing them to do some of the things they do, but with moderation and only under safe conditions.
I have patented a solution in 2001 and developed a working model as far back as 2002 using technology and phones from the 90s. Technology is not the problem then,but the poor understanding of the root cause is what leads to this problem ever growing presence.
For a review of my solution, please check our web site on www.iq-telematics.com. The solution is not on sale yet so this is not apromotion.
I look forward to hear what the readers or charles have to say about this analysis and conclusion as demonstrated in the proposed solution. Best regards.
More government intervention is just going to raise revenue and not solve the problem. We are loosing our freedoms day by day and, while I am often tempted to wish I didn't see, mostly women. with a phone clamped to their ears as they drive, I am repulsed by loosing another freedom. I think the insurance industry should enter the fray and penalize drivers who have accidents while driving distracted by the phone. We are all guilty and the more I see others abuse the priviledge of driving by driving distracted, the less I am inclined to use my phone and join them. Maybe we all, who decry the lack of personal responsibility, should set an example for our children and others. Keep the government out of my pockets and my life.
I wonder if there is a possible answer to the distraction problem that is also an itermediate step to automation. There have been recent products and developments in which cars have been sensing impending collision and dangerous conditions. Automated cars would also need this. In addition, there have been other monitors that claim to be able to detect a drowsy driver and wake him up. What if there was some combination of these thing such as a dangerous condition (multiple cars, within X feet, at Y speed) and a distracted driven, then the car could temporarily alert the drive and "pause" the distractions.
I've been reading a broadcast mag from the 20's. In one article they quoted an Indiana police chief as saying that "drivers already have enough to keep up with without now having to pay attention to the "NEW" car radios.
There was a time when auto designers required tactile feedback for all dashboard input - everything "clicked" when it was pushed or turned - a flat, touch-sensitive input could not be considered - the driver needed to "feel" the input without being distracted from the road. Now, distractions from on-board electronics and ever-present smart phones have become increasingly dangerous. In my daily commute, I see drivers drifting from their lanes in heavy, rush hour traffic - most always, with phone in hand! Recently, I was next to a driver busily texting while waiting for a red light. When the driver ahead made a right turn, the texter, thinking the light was now green, proceeded through the intersection. Fortunately, other drivers were able to avoid a most dangerous situation. So, what do we need? Better design, government regulation, or COMMON SENSE!
You have a good point Larry S. Many times, common sense is neglected because almost everyone claims that they know what is right. I understand that technology has been a part of our daily lives but let us not forget that our life is more important than this high-tech stuffs. Just like what the dealer said when i purchse my car at Sandy Springs Toyota, safety comes first.
Driving does not require 100% focus 100% of the time, if it did, we'd have a LOT more than 30,000-40,000 deaths each year. The problem is it requires 100% focus somewhere between 5 and 95% of the time (daytime driving on a deserted straight rural road versus rush hour city traffic). Even if not playing with anything electronic, nor eating, nor shaving, while driving in a low stress envirnoment, my mind will wander or I'll get drowsy. I relish the day when I can put the car on auto-pilot. In the meantime, I am hopeful we will get more partial auto-pilot tech that provides adequate lane drift warnings, collision avoidance, pro-active guidance. When the light turns green... the car beeps you. When the car in front brakes suddenly, it warns you, possibly applying the brakes for you if you don't respond quickly enough, if a deer is detected on the roadside, it warns you, if the deer jumps in front of you, it may take active measures that don't casue a crash (don't swerve into another car, tree, or ditch). Unfortunately, every warning system and active system will need to be perfect or the lawyers will own everything....reminds me of the lawsuit where some lead footed driver is actually suing because they did not get the gas mileage the car advertised to achieve.
A problem will be that it takes longer to wake up from a nap and respond to your surroundings than it does to glance up from your radio dial, so if a car's automation is partial and allows further disengagment, it will need to be able to compensate for even riskier behavior than we see today. At some point, it is probably full automation with government licensing of systems to provide shelter from lawsuits, or no electronics allowing while the car is on the road including local supression of cell phones and wifi networks. Maybe we'll need to wear brain scanners that confirm the driver is alert and focused. This is all about having an nanny state with no personal responsibily and letting the lawyers, not the people, win.
My biggest concern is how the gorernment will react to all of this new tech. We already have no cell phone laws in some states, which I agree with, but knowing the government...I just worry what they might do. For example, if you get into a wreck, using all of your cars knowledge to prove you were in the wrong...or right. It just worries me. "ohh, you were messing with the radio when you got into that wreck"..do we want that? It still may have not been our fault.
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