The majority of U.S. states have banned texting while driving. In an effort to attract new buyers, automakers are introducing larger and more advanced dashboard displays, some of which allow drivers to read text messages. Lawmakers and safety experts are concerned about the potential for increased levels of distracted driving based on the latest trends in dashboard technology.
The dashboard displays on new vehicles are larger than previous versions. They are also more closely aligned with functions provided by the latest smart phones. Automakers allege that the new displays will improve safety because the touch screens are larger, and therefore easier to use, and also because they are more easily operated through voice controls. Critics contend that the devices encourage drivers to take their eyes off the road for unsafe periods of time.
It is difficult to argue that some of the functions made possible by in-car technology are things that should be done by a person engaged in driving. One model allows drivers to monitor their Twitter feeds for any tweets mentioning the driver. It also allows drivers to upload photos from their smart phones and both read and listen to text messages. A spokesperson for the automaker defended the device by saying that drivers would just turn to their cell phones if their dashboard device did not support a useful function.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has published guidelines about the use of dashboard displays in moving vehicles. The guidelines are not laws, however, and automakers are free to ignore them. There are few restrictions on the devices, so automakers are free to give consumers what they want with little to no regard for what is safe.
Source: Automotive News, “Smartphone like car displays challenge safety policymakers,” 7 July 2015