Customers Are Demanding Connected Cars, The Government Demands Few Distractions, Automakers Caught in the Middle
Automakers are being torn between two very powerful forces. On the one hand customers want to be connected to the outside world from their cars. They want Wi-Fi, and to be able to receive cell phone calls and plug in their iPods. Automakers have responded with a host of new features, most packed into the vehicle’s center console. These features have become the price of admission for automakers.
On the other end are safety advocates and several state and federal agencies that want to limit devices in automobiles they consider as driver distractions. This push began with efforts to limit cell phone use and texting by drivers. A number of states and local governments have laws on the books making these practices unlawful. The Feds are now on board with U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, launching a full-scale assault on distracted drivers, which will soon turn into federal regulations.
Citing safety concerns, the most strident safety advocates want to eliminate all features that can cause driver distractions. This could put the Ford SYNC and GM OnStar systems in jeopardy. Automakers, however, say removing or limiting these systems will cause drivers to seek other, less safe means of staying connected.
All of this is playing out with the development of self-driven cars and the associated technologies happening in the background. Features like front collision avoidance systems, blind spot alert mirrors, and automatic braking systems are becoming more prevalent on today’s vehicles, and assist drivers in the avoidance of traffic accidents.