A car is no longer merely a tool, albeit available in a range of flashy models, for people to move from point A to point B.
Now, Internet access may become a standard feature for consumer vehicles, and a range of high-tech gadgets are either in development or are already a competitive force within the market. Whether you use your dashboard for GPS, texting, surfing the Internet or taking your calls, it does seem odd that there is legislation preventing you from using a mobile phone while driving -- and yet, there are no restrictions for use of Bluetooth or the wide range of gadgetry available in modern vehicles.
The U.S. government seems to have realized this, as it begins to turn its focus towards the technological developments car manufacturers are installing on their car models.
Concerned that these gadgets are contributing to drivers becoming distracted on the road (and probably conscious of the discrepancies between the law and driver concentration & what is being installed in vehicles) the government is now asking car manufacturers to curb their car arcades.
On Thursday, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration proposed volunteer legislation designed for all car manufacturers to follow, including guidelines for a safety feature to be installed that automatically disables any of these devices if the vehicle is in gear.
The industry does possess its own volunteer guidelines, and has done so since 2002, but governing bodies want more emphasis placed on safety in relation to in-car entertainment. Carmakers will be reviewing the new guidelines.
Devices designed for car performance and directions will be spared this 'lock down system' with one exception; the NHTSA have recommended that drivers lose the ability to input a destination unless the car is stationary. The administration body is also considering future legislation that relates to portable devices including smartphones and tablets.
"We recognize that vehicle manufacturers want to build vehicles that include the tools and conveniences expected by today’s American drivers," NHTSA Administrator David Strickland said.
"The guidelines we're proposing would offer 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."
The question that comes to mind is whether volunteer regulations will be enough in the race to entice consumers with technology-laden vehicles. Will the American government eventually decide to remove the volunteer element, and begin pushing restrictions through law?
Image credit: James Bayliss