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Combating Distracted Driving with Connected Vehicle Technology

To fight against distracted driving, many car makers and researchers believe that connected vehicle technology, linking a driverís smartphone to a vehicleís on board equipment, could help to eliminate entirely the need to focus attention away from the task of driving.

Distracted driving has long since become a serious threat to driver safety. Annually, distracted drivers are to blame for as much as 16% of all fatal accidents on US highways, and recent data from the Governorís Highway Safety Administration has also revealed that among young drivers, the trend is growing, highlighted by a 19% increase in fatalities for teen drivers during the first half of 2012. To fight against this dangerous urge to read emails on cell phones, send text messages, or fiddle with entertainment systems, many car makers and researchers believe that connected vehicle technology, linking a driverís smartphone to a vehicleís on board equipment, could help to eliminate entirely the need to focus attention away from the task of driving.

Linked to a carís own systems and combined with voice activated or steering-wheel controlled interfaces, drivers would no longer need to look away from the road to change a song, adjust volume, or even check traffic reports. This connected vehicle technology would provide drivers with the capabilities that they have proven to be unwilling to part with while behind the wheel without the dangerous need to divert attention away from driving. According to research from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, advanced connected vehicle systems could help reduce highway traffic deaths by more than 66%.

A number of car makers are already hard at work developing and implementing these kinds of systems, including General Motors, who recently announced a partnership with AT&T to add mobile broadband connectivity to their vehicles starting in the 2014 model year. ďIn addition to allowing consumers to bring in and connect to personal mobile devices, the vehicle will also act as its own mobile device, enabling embedded vehicle capabilities,Ē says Mary Chan, president of the Global Connected Consumer department at General Motors. Using this broadband connection, drivers would gain access to all the functionality of their phones and devices from their vehicle itself, which could then be designed to minimize the actions needed to operate them. †

GMís CEO, Dan Akerson, also believes that this mobile broadband connectivity could help eliminate superfluous trips to dealerships, as vehicles could be monitored and evaluated remotely. Rather than requiring owners to bring their vehicles in for testing to uncover an internal problem, or to update a software application, the process could be done remotely, helping to save gas, and an extra trip with a potentially defective vehicle.

Creating an interface that is both functional and minimally distracting represents the largest challenge to successful implementation, as a number of systems have been tested with mixed results. Car makers have tested designs ranging from gesture controls, using hand motions to interact with things like music players, to voice controls to steering wheel mounted buttons, each offering varying degrees of usability and distraction. The main concern with interface systems like these is that they themselves could become as large a distraction as a cell phone, rendering the entire system useless. To be successfulFree Web Content, a system will need to be implemented that allows functionality without requiring unneeded focus to use it.

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