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.



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