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Banning cell phones in cars

John Day

John Day

Posted Mar 29, 2010

A thought has occurred to at least two of us, the other being Roger Lanctot, director of business development in the global automotive practice at Strategy Analytics. Last week he wrote “…objections to mobile phones in cars masks a movement opposed to an even wider array of emerging and existing automotive technologies and in-cabin interfaces.”

He was referring to a ban on hand-held cell phone use passed by the Maryland senate. “Will people be safer driving cars without mobile phones? Probably. Is it reasonable to ask people to use hands-free technology in the car? Definitely. Is the law enforceable? Maybe. Can all drivers be expected to completely give up mobile phone use in the car? No,” he reasons.

And here’s the thought that stood out when I read Lanctot’s article: “If the industry does not step forward to defend these technologies, consumers will lose and safety will suffer.” Automakers and suppliers might not be so happy either.

Lanctot is concerned that a ban on the use of hand-held cell phones is a step toward an outright ban on cell phone use by drivers. The National Safety Council is calling for just such a ban, and Oprah Winfrey is soliciting “No Phone Zone” pledges.

He says, and I agree, that we need to embrace technology and harness its power to improve safety and convenience in the car. For example, “people can change radio stations today with voice commands as opposed to reaching out for a knob while calibrating the movement of a needle across a dimly lit display.”

Lanctot notes multiple solutions that leverage technology to control mobile phone use in the car, including, SafeReader, tXtBlocker, and Auto TxtBak. ZoomSafer’s Voicemate has applications for monitoring or controlling drivers’ use of connected devices. “The solution recognizes the need for access to connected devices and provides the means for facilitating safe uses,” he says.

“New solutions using new interfaces will help the industry steer its way through the challenge of enabling communication in a vehicle. Voice, touch, haptic, gesture, facial recognition, sensor inputs and fusion-based technologies that process all of these inputs are how enhanced safety will be achieved.” That’s a message that consumers and lawmakers need to hear.

tXtBlocker, Strategy Analytics, Voicemate,, Mobile Phones, Auto TxtBak, ZoomSafer, Roger Lanctot, SafeReader, National Safety Council, Oprah Winfrey

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John DayJohn Day recently launched John Day’s Automotive Electronics News ( to provide news and feature coverage of the automotive electronics industry. Earlier he wrote for Auto Electronics magazine, Auto E-lectronics, EE Times, and other business and engineering publications. Visit John Day

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Comments 4

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Couldn't the people who make up "the industry" just find something better to do with their lives than figure out new ways to distract people while driving? I know EDA salesmen are worse than used car salesmen but this is a new low for Mentor. What's next? The productivity enhancing effects of smoking tobacco?

Amazed Reader
2:54 PM Mar 30, 2010

I would like to point out that you neglected to mention the one company that has been at devising solutions to distracted driving the longest (9 years!) and that is Trinity-Noble. While we offer an application named Guardian Angel which locks a cell phone's keys at certain speeds we believe the only "sure-fire" solution is total denial of service by way of an intentional radiator (jammer) which prevents the driver from using his/her cell phone while certain criteria are present (cell phone activity by the driver detected above 10 MPH, for example)by blocking the cell phone signal. If the driver needs to make a call all he/she needs to do is pull over or slow down and put the hazards on. The problem with this solution is that it is prohibited by the FCC due to an arcane, vague law. We have been instructed to sell our jammer overseas before the U.S. Senate will feel comfortable enough to allow our technology. In other words go save foreign lives before you save American lives. Joe Brennan Trinity-Noble

Joe Brennan
7:09 PM Mar 31, 2010

When are we going to stop with the banning and controlling things that you can do while driving? Using your cell phone is no worse than eating a sandwich or shaving with an electric razor. You don't have to look at any of them to do it. "Dialling" or key punching while driving is another matter, that is completely distracting and dangerous, so voice activated dialling should be mandatory, and I do agree that hands free is the way to go. But holding the phone to your ear is not a problem, and talking whilst driving, not a problem. The most dangerous thing I've ever done whilst driving is eat a burrito that spilled sauce all over my shirt and tie and maybe the same thing with coffee. I am still here and still driving, although I will not do either of the things that I just mentioned, not because I'm afraid of killing anyone, but because I don't like being a slob. The laws are in place and people still drive while talking into their cell phones, I see them and I don't see erratic driving. Have statistics shown any change in traffic accidents due to cell phone control? Or is it just another $100 gadget that we are forced to buy. Will they ban CD's or the radio next, air fresheners are pretty distracting. Give me a break!

Martin Bridges
12:30 AM Apr 6, 2010

I use the DriveSafely app and it is great. Free app for my blackberry that reads all of my messages. I heard about it on the news.

Drive Safely
1:55 AM May 11, 2010

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