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Continuing a campaign initiated by Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood, the administrator of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) addressed the Telematics Detroit 2011 conference with harsh words on the growing trend to integrate infotainment technology into cars.
David Strickland told those assembled, “I’m just putting everyone on notice. A car is not a mobile device. I’m not in the business of helping people tweet better. I’m not in the business of helping people post on Facebook better.”
That’s not to say that the NHTSA and DOT are opposed to all telematics applications. In fact, the agencies support systems that provide remote vehicle diagnostics, on-board navigation and automated crash response (like GM’s OnStar and Hyundai’s Blue Link). What the agencies oppose is any on-board system that leads to distracted driving, frequently citing that 995 of the 30,797 fatal crashes in 2009 involved drivers using cell phones.
Automakers, on the other hand, are caught between what the government requires and what their customers want. Generation Y drivers are focused on in-car technology and don’t see texting as a distraction to driving; instead, they see driving as a distraction to texting, which is an alarming trend by itself.
Unless--or until--cars become automated transportation pods requiring no driver involvement, this clash between technology, the NHTSA and automakers won’t find an easy resolution.