Technology is fighting or helping distracted driving? image

Federal safety regulators estimate at least one in 10 U.S. highway deaths derides from distracted driving, so laws that limits the use of hand-held cellphones and texting while driving need to be enforced. But there is also spurring interest in using other high-tech ways to fight distracted driving.

Carmakers are now using many strategies, including the use of voice commands that will assist a driver in things like changing stations or asking for directions to a specific location. Head-up displays that mirror jet-fighter information availability are also increasingly common. The HUD is usually available on high-end models, including the 2014 Chevrolet Corvette, but goes down to the extreme, on the new Mazda3, while Mini plans to equip many of its cars with it.

Also, the latest update to Microsoft’s Windows Phone software brought a new Driving Mode that can silence incoming calls and texts to allow a driver to focus on driving. It can be set to automatically start when the smartphone is connected to a car’s Bluetooth audio system. Apple, on the other hand, has a similar function, called,  Do Not Disturb for the iPhone – but it must be activated manually.

Ford is one of several major automakers implicated in researching the impact of distracted driving – the Detroit maker has a simulator almost identical to those used by airlines to train their pilots, but in this instance tailored to detect what happens when a “driver” tries to text or do seemingly simple tasks like changing a radio station or checking navigation directions.

Delphi, another example, has developed a system that takes away all distractions by moving crucial information directly in the driver’s field of view, allowing him to control all major functions by using a button on the steering wheel or through voice commands. The high-mount, transparent display has reconfigurable clusters which assure that critical data is always in the driver’s line of view, according to Jeffrey J. Owens, Delphi’s chief technology officer.