Distracted driving prevention is on the tip of everyone’s tongue in the automotive industry, as studies continue to reveal that drawing attention away from the road — even for a moment — can have disastrous consequences for drivers. With this in mind, car companies have had to balance the desire to offer cutting-edge connectivity, entertainment and communications features with the need to keep the focus on the road ahead.
Here are a few of the technological initiatives that automakers are undertaking to reduce the dangers of distracted driving.
What better way is there to keep your eyes front and center than to use your voice to access vehicle functions, instead of scrolling through on-screen menus or fumbling with your phone? Using voice controls in a vehicle has been a common tactic for distracted driving prevention for a number of years. There are still barriers to overcome, such as a limited ability to understand natural speech and the requirement to phrase commands in a very specific way. However, voice controls have become quite useful for hands-free smartphone use over Bluetooth wireless technology, and is made easy by dashboard phone mounts.
Android Auto and Apple CarPlay
Another distracted driving prevention strategy widely adopted by automakers is to project the functionality of a mobile phone directly onto the touchscreen interface of a vehicle. Both the Android Auto and Apple CarPlay interfaces transport a subset of phone features onto a standardized visual interface that is largely the same in every car and truck. The benefit is a bigger display for accessing phone-based navigation and infotainment, as well as the ability to interact with a vehicle’s built-in controls, rather than the mobile device.
Buttons and Dials
Can traditional buttons and dials play an important role in distracted driving prevention? You might be surprised to hear that the answer to this question is yes. For a period of time, car designers embraced button-free panels and touchscreens, for the most part due to the cleaner look they offered on the dashboard. Without the tactile response of a button press or a knob twirl, however, drivers were forced to devote more of their attention to these interfaces, robbing the road of their full concentration. Increasingly, manufacturers are adding hard buttons and physical dials to allow for quicker, safer access to vehicle features.
Fighting the dangers of distracted driving ultimately starts with you. Being aware of the distractions caused by mobile devices and other technologies is a big step toward reducing the chance of being involved in an accident.
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Having been bitten by the car bug at a young age, I spent my formative years surrounded by Studebakers at car shows across Quebec and the northeastern United States. Over ten years of racing, restoring, and obsessing over automobiles lead me to balance science writing and automotive journalism full time. I currently contribute as an editor to several online and print automotive publications, and I also write and consult for the pharmaceutical and medical device industry.