Attention: U.S. distraction guidelines Weekly Brief—4.29.13

Attention: U.S. distraction guidelines Weekly Brief—4.29.13

In this week’s Brief: National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, Texas A&M Transportation Institute, Shanghai Motor Show, Apple, Volkswagen, Buick, BYD, Nuance, TomTom, Honda UK, OnStar, and the International Academies of Emergency Dispatch

This week the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) released its long-anticipated distraction guidelines, which draw a blueprint for how car OEMs should install electronic devices to mitigate driver distraction. The voluntary guidelines limit tasks that draw a driver’s eyes away from the road to two seconds at a time, and limit those interactions to 12 seconds in total.

Certain actions NHTSA recommends disabling altogether unless the car is stopped and in park. These actions include text messaging, internet browsing, video phoning, and display of texts or social media content.

The guidelines stop short of an all-out mandate; being “voluntary,” OEMs can elect to follow them or not, although OEMs got to weigh in last year during an extended consultation period and it’s likely that OEMs in the U.S. will adopt these recommended guidelines as if law. NHTSA has two more guidelines in the works, one for portable devices and one for voice control interfaces.

“Distracted driving is a deadly epidemic that has devastating consequences on our nation’s roadways,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood in unveiling the guidelines. “These guidelines recognize that today’s drivers appreciate technology, while providing automakers with a way to balance the innovation consumers want with the safety we all need.  Combined with good laws, good enforcement and good education, these guidelines can save lives.”

Sticking on the distraction front, a new study released this week found that texting while driving via a voice-to-text app (like Siri for the iPhone or Vlingo for Android) is equally as dangerous as manually texting while behind the wheel. The study was conducted by the Texas A&M Transportation Institute and is based on the performance of 43 research participants driving an actual vehicle on a closed course. The most damning evidence from the study: Drivers took roughly twice as long to react to a situation regardless of the texting method in use and spent equally as much time looking away from the road ahead.

Jumping overseas to China, OEMs and industry vendors descended upon Shanghai for the Shanghai Motor Show, which ran from the 20th to the 29th of April and featured 17 indoor exhibition halls … a scale truly worthy of the ballooning Chinese auto market.

One of the big announcements in the telematics sphere was a new partnership between Apple and Volkswagen. Future VW Beetles and Beetle Cabriolets will offer an advanced interface between the car and the iPhone, built around a central cradle for the iPhone on the dashboard. Once the phone is docked, the car will offer all the iPhone’s connectivity, from navigation to hands-free phone calls to streaming music and social media feeds.

Also at the Shanghai Show, Buick showed off a new concept car with some impressive telematics chops. Building off a 4G LTE network, the car has touch and gesture recognition that allows the driver to control connected media, from navigation and music to weather updates and news.

The car also offers advanced driver assistance based upon 10 high-res cameras and 18 micro sensors which combine to monitor images and distance at all times. The result is blind-zone and cross-traffic alerts, night view, auto-pilot, and lane departure warnings.

Chinese auto manufacturer BYD announced a new line of sedans, dubbed Si-Rui, which will include a voice-enabled human machine interface. Connectivity offerings will range from navigation to radio to a TV and DVD player in the passenger dash. Another perk is text-to-speech for Mandarin Chinese and Taiwan Mandarin. The voice technology comes courtesy of Nuance.

In other news, TomTom rolled out “Zones de Danger,” a new speedcam warning app for the French market. As readers may recall, the French market has been a contentious place to be for speedcam products in the past year due to new local laws limiting speedcam use.

TomTom, however, is jumping in with a new solution that reveals mobile and permanent speedcam locations, updating every two minutes so as to keep an eye on cops on the go. The app also provides basic info about speed limits and other road signage.

Honda UK launched a new smartphone app that allows Honda drivers to quickly and easily request roadside assistance without the hassle of searching for call numbers or pinpointing their own location. The Honda Assistance App is iPhone, Blackberry, and Android compatible and comes with additional features like “Honda Happiness Insurance,” which allows customers to quickly get a quote for potential coverage, and AA Roadwatch, which provides up-to-date information about delays and traffic along a driver’s planned route.

OnStar’s First Assist service, which responds to emergency calls from drivers and offers emergency medical advice—as far-ranging as how to deliver a baby or administer CPR—while help is en route, reached a milestone this week when it was named as a Medical Accredited Center of Excellence by the International Academies of Emergency Dispatch (IAED). Most centers in the running for the distinction are 911 call centers; OnStar is the first non-emergency service private company to earn the accreditation.

The Weekly Brief is a round-up of the week’s top telematics news, combining TU analysis with information from industry press releases.

For exclusive business analysis and insight about telematics applications, see Industry Insight: Telematics and Apps

Coming up in 2013: Insurance Telematics Europe 2013 on May 7-8 in London and TU Detroit on June 5-6 in Detroit.

For exclusive telematics business analysis and insight, check out TU’s reports on In-Vehicle Smartphone Integration Report, Human Machine Interface Technologies and Smart Vehicle Technology: The Future of Insurance Telematics.


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