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United States Government Transportation

NHTSA and DOT Want Your Car To Be Able To Disable Your Cellphone Functions 405

Posted by samzenpus
from the shut-it-down dept.
savuporo writes "The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the Department of Transportation are considering technological solutions for people to stop using their cellphones while driving. Proximity detectors or requiring physical link with the car are the solutions under the scope. From the article: 'NHTSA wants automakers to make it impossible to enter text for messaging and internet browsing while the car is in motion, disable any kind of video functionality and prevent text-based information such as social media content or text messages from being displayed.' Obviously these regulations would need to go beyond cellphones, as laptop, tablet or any other gadget with a 3G data connection or even on a wi-fi hotspot made by your phone would be equally distracting."
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NHTSA and DOT Want Your Car To Be Able To Disable Your Cellphone Functions

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  • First (Score:5, Insightful)

    by thsths (31372) on Friday June 07, 2013 @03:07AM (#43933451)

    passenger - do you want to restrict them, too?

    • Re:First (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward on Friday June 07, 2013 @03:13AM (#43933481)

      Even if you differentiate and only disable the driver's phone, how do you stop the drivers borrowing a passenger's phone? There isn't a technological solution to this, only legal ones (which already exist).

      • Re:First (Score:5, Insightful)

        by spire3661 (1038968) on Friday June 07, 2013 @03:14AM (#43933491) Journal
        Beyond even that, what if im using my cellphone as a hotspot to provide the electronics in my car an internet connection? This is incredibly short sighted.
      • Re:First (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Charliemopps (1157495) on Friday June 07, 2013 @08:59AM (#43934991)

        The solution isn't legal, it's social. All those years they spend trying to ban cigarettes, tax them... none of it worked. But the day I heard my niece describe a guy as "gross" for smoking I knew it was doomed as a habit.

      • "Even if you differentiate and only disable the driver's phone, how do you stop the drivers borrowing a passenger's phone? There isn't a technological solution to this, only legal ones (which already exist)."

        Speaking of existing, there is another problem here: the fact that studies have broken any demonstrable cause-effect relationship between (voice) cell phone use and automobile accidents.

        There is a correlation, to be sure. But actual studies done to show a causative effect have come up short. But it's even more solid than that, because real-world data show the same thing: where no-cell-phone laws have been passed, there has been no significant reduction in automobile accidents. And in those areas that sub

    • by mwvdlee (775178)

      How exactly does one distinguish between HTTP traffic of social media or messaging protocols and "allowed" traffic if those protocols may change or new ones can be invented at any minute?

    • by mjwx (966435)

      passenger - do you want to restrict them, too?

      Passengers know when to shut up.

      People on the other side of the phone dont.

      • by Chrisq (894406)

        passenger - do you want to restrict them, too?

        Passengers know when to shut up. People on the other side of the phone dont.

        So you wouldn't restrict playing with your passenger's buttons when driving.

      • by julesh (229690)

        I think he meant to ask whether passengers be restricted from using their phones, not whether they shouldn't be allowed to talk to the driver. Although...

      • by Belial6 (794905)

        Passengers know when to shut up.

        No. They don't.

    • Re:First (Score:5, Insightful)

      by stephanruby (542433) on Friday June 07, 2013 @03:47AM (#43933669)

      passenger - do you want to restrict them, too?

      The Prius does indeed restrict the front seating passenger from using most of its center panel functions when the car is moving, which is really idiotic because it's smart enough to know there is a passenger in the seat (since it will complain loudly when that same passenger doesn't put his seat belt on).

    • Al Capone (Score:2, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Want? It's not a question of "want". It's a question of safety, expediency and convenience.

      Why, next time I stuff someone in the trunk of my car I won't even have to find and take their phones. Just think how much time and hassle this would save.

  • by Todd Knarr (15451) on Friday June 07, 2013 @03:16AM (#43933505) Homepage

    So how would this proposed system distinguish between the driver using a phone and a passenger using a phone? It's not reasonable to forbid every passenger (who's not driving and has no need to not be distracted) from using any device while someone else is driving.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      This is about the US, not whatever country you live in where people drive with passengers. That's why the story has a nice US flag next to it. The idea that passengers would be inconvenienced is laughable, it's not like anyone ever drives with other people in their car.

      • This is about the US...it's not like anyone ever drives with other people in their car.

        ... maybe if they want to take advantage of the HOV lanes? (ok, ok, I know, a blow-up doll [youtube.com] has no use for a cell phone...)

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Don't forget the fact that it won't be able to distinguish between the driver using a phone and the driver using a phone because he has an emergency and need to.

    • by sjames (1099) on Friday June 07, 2013 @03:38AM (#43933605) Homepage

      If you block the kids in the back seat too, you might increase the driver's distraction considerably.

      • by Cenan (1892902)

        So, what is really needed is a one seated car with no gadgets installed and which block cell phone traffic. CityEl [wikipedia.org], this one has 1 seat and not enough room for you to actually move your hands, let alone use your phone - and certainly no room for kids.

        • not enough room for you to actually move your hands

          Yeah, hands can be pretty distracting too... especially if you spot a hot stud on the sidewalk...

      • by stenvar (2789879) on Friday June 07, 2013 @04:11AM (#43933759)

        They will pass a law requiring the kids not to distract the driver! That will fix it! Right after the law requiring kids not to scream their lungs out on flights! It's just that evil conservatives are currently blocking this legislation right now because big business and gun lobby!

    • by macklin01 (760841)
      Furthermore, the passenger might be helping with the navigation, answering those critical emails, etc ... to help the driver keep focused on the road.
    • by Alioth (221270)

      You make the phone work only when it's either in the back of the car, or the right half of the car if in the front (or the left in countries that drive on the left). If it passes over the transmission tunnel to the left side front then it shuts down. Short range radio transmissions can be used to accomplish this.

  • by mysidia (191772) on Friday June 07, 2013 @03:16AM (#43933509)

    They're doing it all wrong. You can't solve a social problem with technological features.

    There's no way you can make a car that will stop someone from tapping on their ipad, or putting on their makeup.

    If you try, they'll just get pissed off, disable the feature, and do it even more to spite you.

    The solution is to fix the culture to make it socially unacceptable.

    Have the law enforcement officers doing their job.

    Jail time for any driver caught texting while in motion.

    • by sjames (1099)

      Jail time won't fix it. 1st offense you are required to affix stickers to the front, sides, and back reading "Caution: Moron". Second offense you get a flashing strobe and a loudspeaker that repeats "DuuuuuH!" at 100 db. Third offense, they affix a giant 3d rendering of a horses ass to the hood and trunk. If none of that gets the point across, you lose your license for 10 years.

      • by adolf (21054)

        First offense: Cruel, unusual. (I can provide citations.)

        Second offense: Noise ordinance violation.

        Third offense: Cruel, unusual. (Again.)

        Fourth offense: 10 years suspension? I'd rather they spend a week at Ft. Leavenworth making big rocks into little rocks. After that, two weeks. Then four.

        • by sjames (1099)

          Easily gotten around. Offer those punishments in lieu of jail and lost license.

    • by Chrisq (894406) on Friday June 07, 2013 @03:47AM (#43933661)

      They're doing it all wrong. You can't solve a social problem with technological features.

      I don't know ... deodorant does a pretty good job

    • by dbIII (701233)

      The solution is to fix the culture to make it socially unacceptable.

      It worked with phones in movie theatres so maybe some push to put phones in silent mode in the glove box could do something.

      • If you're driving and you "need" to be contactable - then give your phone to a passenger and they can handle your calls for you.
        As they're in the car with you then they can see what you're doing and so distract you less while keeping the caller occupied.

    • by Tom (822) on Friday June 07, 2013 @05:14AM (#43933983) Homepage Journal

      They're doing it all wrong. You can't solve a social problem with technological features.

      No, but you can mitigate it. The problem is real, people are dying on the street today because someone checked his Twitter or Mail while driving. If a technological feature can reduce the number of these incidents by x% - well, ask the x% who would otherwise be dead if they think it's worth it.

      The solution is to fix the culture to make it socially unacceptable.

      While I agree on that, we do not have a formula on how to do that. Some stuff that we outlaw is also uncool, but some stuff is cool exactly because it's illegal. Laws do not define what's socially acceptable, and we don't know how exactly to change a culture.

      The technology solution might not be as good, but at least we know how it can be done. That's a real practical advantage.

    • Have the law enforcement officers doing their job.

      Jail time for any driver caught texting while in motion.

      So close, and yet so far. Guess what? If LEOs did their jobs, we wouldn't need cellphone laws at all. Drivers would simply be ticketed for driving like an asshole, regardless of reason, and not ticketed if they aren't driving like an asshole. See, here's the fundamental problem with a cellphone law: some people drive better while talking on the phone than do other people while focusing on nothing but driving. If the goal is to prevent incompetent driving, we need to institute some serious driver testing and retesting, and take away licenses from people who fail it. But that means that the vast majority of the elderly would have their licenses taken away, and they vote.

      When you propose enforcement of a bad law, you are expressing a bad idea.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday June 07, 2013 @03:19AM (#43933519)

    It's 2014. You enter your car. Your watch stops -- it poses too much of a distraction. Mandatory reaction time enhancing drugs are automatically injected into your blood as you turn the ignition.

    The car revs once, but doesn't move. A breathalyzer test is administered automatically by the car, followed by a urine test and a routine vision screening. Small electrical signals are passed through the chair to test your reflexes while a brain scan is run to check for any impure thoughts or intentions.

    Finally, drive mode is unlocked. Your maximum speed is set by your insurance provider -- a leisurely 10mph. An artificial intelligence watches you drive your car via. video link to monitor your driving patterns. Your cellphone is disabled.

    Time to hit the open road.

  • Sounds useful (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward

    If I were a cop, I'd be happy to use this tech to stop everyone from talking about or recording me assault people. Imagine how useful this technology would be to dictators. Well done Obama. Not only have you just created a data trove for organized crime to blackmail every US citizen, you are about to create the technology that helps dictators repress rebels.

  • Chauffeur's (Score:5, Funny)

    by zippo01 (688802) on Friday June 07, 2013 @03:22AM (#43933533)
    I think getting everyone a personal Chauffeur is the answer. Fixes the unemployment problem and the cell phone problem. Well other then the chauffeur texting but that's easily solved with electric shocks.
  • can you still call 911 if your phone gets disabled and you're involved in some sort of accident (or you witness one)?

  • by adolf (21054)

    I guess I'll keep driving and maintaining my existing cars until I die.

    (And for the record: I'm OK with this; my cars suit me perfectly.)

  • Step 1: Phone user puts phone on roof while putting other stuff in the car.
    Step 2: Phone user forgets about phone and reverses out.
    Step 3: The reversing car disables the phone that slides off the roof into the path of the wheels.

    OK, so it's a surprisingly common and hilarious failure mode for laptops but I'm sure some phones have also died that way even though they usually live in pockets.
  • For pity's sake... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by L4t3r4lu5 (1216702) on Friday June 07, 2013 @04:21AM (#43933807)
    Not.
    A.
    Technology.
    Problem.


    Make using a mobile phone punishable by confiscating the car immediately (as it is in the UK for driving uninsured) and a mandatory appearance in court, punishment being revocation of license.
  • Most police patrol cars have multiple displays for the driver to easily read information (radar gun displaying speed of oncoming vehicles, license plate scanner scrolling information about the registration status of nearby cars, laptop, etc). If *my* car is going to be required to block any distractions while I am driving, then surely the public safety officers need to be similarly coddled and babysat.
    This is a stupid idea.

    • by stiggle (649614)

      and most/all of that equipment is used when the patrol car is stationary and doesn't require operator input (typing, etc) they're passive display. Most sensible law enforcement deploy cops in pairs - one to drive and the other to monitor & operate the tech.

    • by Alioth (221270)

      All patrol cars around here have two cops in them. Even while on foot, they tend to go around in pairs.

  • The root cause of this problem is that car drivers do not feel compelled to leave their phones alone while driving.

    Unless you change this mindset, any artificial technological means of compulsion will only be despised, circumvented and rendered useless while incurring additional unnecesary costs as well as greatly inconveniencing non-drivers.

    The key here is that drivers call/text while driving for convenience - they want to transmit a message NOW to save time rather than wait until the car stops rolling. To

  • by sjames (1099) on Friday June 07, 2013 @05:21AM (#43934021) Homepage

    Near the end TFA suggests detecting when the driver is using the phone but not the passenger. Just brilliant, now we'll have drivers leaning into the passenger seat texting.

  • What could possibly go wrong?

  • Hang up and drive (Score:4, Insightful)

    by YrWrstNtmr (564987) on Friday June 07, 2013 @12:34PM (#43937611)
    How many of you have received a check from the insurance company to replace a vehicle that was totaled as a direct result of phone use? I have. Trust me...hanging upside down, covered in broken glass, does not make for a fun afternoon.

    You cannot multitask nearly as well as you think you can. You might want to look out the windows once in a while, rather than looking at the phone. Unlike the bimbo that t-boned me.

    If you self-important phone users would just put the goddamn phone down and actually drive the car, we wouldn't need initiatives like this.

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