Feds Serious About Dashboard Distraction
     

Whether and how radio is affected by proposed voluntary “dashboard distraction” guidelines by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration for vehicle manufacturers is yet unknown.

Though at first glance, HD Radio’s Artist Experience images would seem to be unaffected while RDS text scrolling may need to be limited.

To reduce driver distraction, the NHTSA has proposed what it believes are “real-world guidance to automakers to help them develop electronic devices that provide features consumers want without disrupting a driver’s attention or sacrificing safety,” according to NHTSA Administrator David Strickland.

The proposed guidelines from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration recommend these operations be disabled unless a vehicle is stopped and the transmission is in park: text messaging, Internet browsing, social media browsing, phone dialing and display messages of 30 characters or more that aren’t related to driving. The guidelines would make exceptions for these devices if they are designed only for use by passengers and can’t be accessed or seen by the driver. Hence, NPR’s dual-view radio prototype comes to mind.

GPS systems would be allowed, but drivers would not be allowed to manually enter an address unless the vehicle is in park.

The guidelines are directed at passenger cars and SUVs. The guidelines would exempt safety devices like electronic warning systems that alert drivers to potential collisions or lane changes.

The NHTSA also urged manufacturers to improve the safety of technology that drivers are allowed to use while driving, including reducing the time a driver’s eyes are off the road to two seconds or less. Devices should be designed so drivers don’t have to use more than one hand or glance through extraneous information, according to NHTSA, which has issued the proposal to keep the nation’s (and automakers’) focus on driver safety.

Automakers say they’re already focused on driver safety and dashboard distractions specifically, they told me at the recent CES.

Radio industry proponents may be heartened by a discussion of manual car radio tuning beginning on page 90. “Vehicle radios/stereos have long been the most common original equipment system with functionality not directly related to driving,” states NHTSA. “Driving a car with the radio on is an extremely common and widely accepted scenario for Americans. Given this fact, it seems reasonable to allow other tasks to be performed that require a similar degree of driver interaction and to discourage tasks that are more distracting than that level.”

The NHTSA plans to hold hearings on the proposal and there’s a 60-day comment period.


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