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 DriveSafe.ly, 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.