Figuring out how to get drivers to concentrate on the road is a growing challenge. In an effort to reduce distracted driving accidents, the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration asked automakers in April to voluntarily limit built-in devices in new vehicles. An executive at Garmin Automotive believes that the voluntary guidelines may actually lead to an increase in distracted driving accidents. His contention is that drivers who are seeking information or engaging in other distractions while driving will simply use smart phones and other devices to get what they want. These devices will be even less likely to take driver safety into account when they are being designed. The result will be drivers who are not paying attention to the road.
Garmin has conducted internal research regarding distracted driving. It claims that products are designed to provide drivers with enough functionality that they do not need external sources, while balancing the need for drivers to stay focused on operating their vehicles. While most of its products have been portable up to this point, Garmin is attempting to gain a larger share of the built-in market. The NHTSA guidelines could have a significant impact on the size of that business.
If, in reducing the functionality of embedded devices, the NHTSA causes more drivers to pick up their cell phones for navigation, entertainment and other tasks, then the voluntary guidelines may be counterproductive. The real problem stems from the number of drivers who feel comfortable taking their eyes off the road and their minds off the task of safe driving.
Source: Wards Auto, “Garmin Official: NHTSA Guidelines Could Create Worse Behavior,” by Christie Schweinsberg, 21 June 2013