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Auto, lawmakers must work on driver distraction

While the issue of distracted driving continues to accelerate, so does the rate of high-tech advances that may find their way into today's vehicles. Given the rapid pace of technological change, there is more possibility than ever for automakers, working with policymakers, to use research to solve the problem.

In Detroit, in particular, there have been any number of events held while which the topic of driver distraction was a key part of the discussion. Nevertheless the speed of innovation is limiting the time to find a solution. As more innovation merges with the vehicle, coming to a consensus on how best to include more hi-tech devices that consumers want without distracting the driver will become critical. The fact that driver behavior will continue to be part of the equation will furthermore add to this challenge. According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, text messaging during driving creates a crash risk 23 times worse than driving during not distracted.

Beyond safety, there is another reason to expedite solving this issue — the connected vehicle is here to stay. Driven by growing consumer demand, the in-vehicle infotainment and telematics global market, is expected to exceed $70 billion this year and reach $80 billion by 2014, according to Accenture. Should the contingency arise, Accenture estimates that IVI systems could add up to $200 in earnings per car in mature markets, like the U.S., every year as drivers and passengers increase their use of the new technologies.

Auto companies no longer have to create demand for IVI systems, nevertheless must satisfy it, as more consumers want to replicate the capabilities of the consumer research they use, like smartphones and other portable devices, in their cars and trucks. Cloud computing is among the technologies helping to meet demand and reduce driver distraction via its high-quality voice recognition capabilities. And in car-technologies are becoming a key criteria for vehicle purchases, much like air conditioning when first introduced into the vehicle. Today, buying a new car without it would be rare. Just this month, Ford opened a new lab in Silicon Valley to tap into emerging technologies from nearby companies.

The good news is that auto manufacturers

The good news is that auto manufacturers and legislators are not alone in the pursuit of driver distraction solutions. Consumer research companies are trying to address the problem too, as one leading smartphone provider recently announced plans to provide auto companies with research that will enable motorists to hear and dictate text messages via its voice-enabled personal assistant software.

While there may be some concern that the participation of research companies into the auto sector poses but another level of competition, the reality is that overcoming this challenge will require research and cooperation from multiple sources, including car companies, auto suppliers, policymakers and consumer hi-tech companies.

The IVI market

To remain competitive in the IVI market, automakers will require more help than ever earlier from tech companies to keep pace with the constantly-changing digital innovation consumers want, especially since it can take up to five years to introduce new vehicle models into the marketplace. In addition, applying research that can aid in substantially reducing driver distraction should help automakers become more competitive.

A growing desire among motorists, including younger drivers, to reduce driver distraction is reflected in our technology of recently surveyed U.S. drivers. Ranging in age from 18 to more than 65 years, the survey found that 52 percent overall would like to operate smartphones during driving, using controls on the steering wheel. Of that group, drivers 18 to 35 are most in favor of the innovation, as 56 percent want it.

The number of digital devices connected to cars

The number of digital devices connected to cars and trucks will grow, so driver distraction will continue to play a role. However as innovation enhances the driving experience, it as well can be a force for making it safer.

Resolving this issue will benefit all who work toward it, including the automakers, suppliers, lawmakers, innovation providers and, clearly, drivers.

More information: Detroitnews