Automakers Fighting Fire with Digital Fire


The Detroit Bureau

Automak­ers are turn­ing to high-tech solu­tions to address both high and low-tech dis­tracted dri­ving issues that are caus­ing road fatal­i­ties in the U.S.

Learn more about the tech­nol­ogy pointed at fight­ing dis­tracted driving.

Automak­ers are turn­ing to high-tech solu­tions to address both high– and low-tech dis­tracted dri­ving issues.

With fed­eral safety reg­u­la­tors esti­mat­ing that more than one in 10 U.S. high­way fatal­i­ties results from dis­tracted dri­ving, many states are begin­ning to crack down with laws that limit the use of hand-held cell­phones and tex­ting while behind the wheel. But there’s a grow­ing inter­est in using high-technology solu­tions to bat­tle against dis­tracted driving.

Car­mak­ers are deploy­ing a vari­ety of strate­gies, includ­ing the wider use of voice com­mands that will allow a dri­ver to change sta­tions or request direc­tions to a spe­cific loca­tion. Head-up dis­plays that put infor­ma­tion, such as vehi­cle speed, on the wind­shield are also becom­ing more com­mon.  HUD is avail­able on a num­ber of high-line prod­ucts, includ­ing the 2014 Chevro­let Corvette, and at the other extreme, on the new Mazda3, while Mini plans to roll the tech­nol­ogy out on a wide range of models.

Head-Up Dis­play tech­nol­ogy, like the sys­tem on the 2014 Corvette, aims to keep a driver’s eyes focused on the road.

And the tech­nol­ogy world is weigh­ing in.  The lat­est update to Microsoft’s Win­dows Phone soft­ware intro­duces a new Dri­ving Mode that will silence incom­ing calls and texts to let a dri­ver focus on the road. It can be set to auto­mat­i­cally acti­vate when a Win­dows smart­phone is con­nected to a car’s Blue­tooth audio sys­tem. Apple, mean­while, has a Do Not Dis­turb func­tion for the iPhone – but it must be acti­vated manually.

Ford is one of sev­eral major man­u­fac­tur­ers study­ing the impact of dis­tracted dri­ving – the Detroit automaker using a sim­u­la­tor nearly iden­ti­cal to those used by air­lines to train their pilots, but in this case designed to detect what hap­pens when a “dri­ver” tries to text or do seem­ingly sim­ple tasks like chang­ing a radio sta­tion or check­ing nav­i­ga­tion directions.

But car­mak­ers are increas­ingly turn­ing to their sup­pli­ers for break­through tech­nol­ogy to reduce the prob­lem of dis­tracted driving.