Monday, August 18, 2014

Should your car block you from talking on the phone behind the wheel?

MIT recently outlined research taking place in Brazil that can track and identify when you are talking on the phone behind the wheel of your car. The research is out of the Santa Catarina State University and is a hardware/software solution that lives in the car itself, operating completely independent of the cell phone in hand.

I think this opens a major conversation about what distracted driving laws and measures should exist.

While the general idea is that driving while using your phone is a terrible idea, vendors like Google, with their upcoming Android Auto system, are looking to integrate mobility into the car itself. Developing a custom interface that is embedded into the dashboard is accepted as a legal usage of your phone, mainly because it keeps your hands free for driving.

Embedding the experience into the dashboard may not reduce the actual attention grab, but it has been accepted by over 40 automotive manufacturers through the Open Automotive Alliance.

So, the technology in development in Brazil is simple, they place a camera in the dashboard of your car, then, using facial and skin recognition algorithms, they figure out what is your face and identify when your hand comes into view in the typical 'talking on phone' pose.

Head on over to my Android Authority post for more details on the research and tech.

The story triggered many thoughts on the subject, my takeaway is that most places have Distracted Driving laws that focus on mobile phone usage behind the wheel specifically. This is generally considered an annoying power grab by local governments and law enforcement, as there are already strong reckless driving laws nearly everywhere around the globe.

My opinion on the matter, although there are drastic limitations to this exact approach, is that installing limiters in the car should only be used in extreme situations. I want to treat this exactly as one would an alcohol breathalyzer ignition lock. Some parents opt to install a breathalyzer for their children that are old enough to drive, but not old enough to drink, and law enforcement mandate it for convicted drunk drivers. I cannot think of any other use-case in which mobile phone technology should be blocked in the car.

There you have it, I believe in reckless/dangerous driving laws, even in stiffer fines for accidents or driving infractions caused by mobile phone usage, but if no infractions or otherwise 'distracted' driving takes place, a user should be able to continue use. After all, the stereo and heater controls of modern cars takes enough attention to manage all their own, and they are legal, unless you are staring at them when you crash your car.

What do you think, should your car be able to block you from using your phone?


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