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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