Automotive Electronics: Safety Enhancements or Deterrents?

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NBC News - March 5, 2013

With dis­tracted dri­ving labeled a No. 1 con­trib­u­tor to dri­ving deaths, why are fed­eral reg­u­la­tors work­ing with the auto indus­try to put even more elec­tron­ics in vehicles?

Find out what’s on tap for con­nected cars of the future.

Accord­ing to new data from the Gov­er­nors High­way Safety Asso­ci­a­tion, there was a 19% increase in the num­ber of fatal­i­ties among young teen dri­vers dur­ing the first half of 2012, and dis­tracted dri­ving is catch­ing much of the blame.

So, why are fed­eral reg­u­la­tors work­ing with the auto indus­try to put even more elec­tron­ics in the cars, trucks and crossovers you’ll likely buy in the years ahead?

Dur­ing a mobile com­mu­ni­ca­tions con­fer­ence in Spain ear­lier this week, Gen­eral Motors announced plans to equip “most” of the vehi­cles it sells in the U.S. with 4G broad­band capa­bil­i­ties start­ing with the 2014 model-year.

Among other things, pas­sen­gers will be able to tap into an onboard WiFi hot spot that can han­dle up to eight dif­fer­ent cell­phones, table and lap­top com­put­ers and other devices.

There are the obvi­ous oppor­tu­ni­ties to enhance onboard info­tain­ment sys­tems, let­ting pas­sen­gers stream music or movies, for exam­ple. But there are addi­tional safety and secu­rity ser­vices that can take GM’s ground­break­ing OnStar ser­vice to another level, the maker promised. Launched in 1995, it already allows a motorist to open the vehicle’s doors if the keys are locked inside. And the sys­tem can auto­mat­i­cally call for help if the vehi­cle is involved in a seri­ous accident.

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