Washington Auto dashboards are becoming an arcade of text messages, GPS images, phone calls and web surfing, the government says, and it’s asking carmakers to curb those distractions when vehicles are moving.
Manufacturers have been loading up higher-end vehicles with an array of built-in gadgets in an effort to tempt car buyers who want to multi-task behind the wheel in today’s increasingly connected society. But the technological advances have raised concerns that drivers’ attention is being diverted too much from the road.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration on Thursday proposed voluntary guidelines for manufacturers, including a recommendation that they design dashboards so that distracting devices are automatically disabled unless the vehicle is stopped and the transmission is in park.
“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,” said NHTSA Administrator David Strickland.
Gloria Bergquist, vice president of the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, said carmakers will review the guidelines, which have a 60-day comment period. She noted that the industry has had its own voluntary guidelines since 2002.
“Drivers are going to have conversations, listen to music and read maps while driving, and automakers are helping them do this more safely with integrated hands-free systems that help drivers focus on the road,” Bergquist said.
The guidelines, which are directed at passenger cars and sport utility vehicles, would exempt safety devices such electronic-warning systems that alert drivers to potential collisions or lane changes. GPS and other navigation devices that provide directions would also be permitted while driving, but the safety administration is asking that the systems be designed so that drivers can’t manually enter a destination unless the car is in park.