USDOT Proposes Distraction Guidelines for Auto Manufacturers

Secretary of Transportation Ray La Hood announced the first federally proposed guidelines to encourage auto manufacturers to design vehicles to reduce distractions from in-vehicle electronic devices. The devices are those not required to safely operate the vehicle and include communications, entertainment, information gathering and navigation devices. Those devices that require visual or manual operation by drivers are targeted.

Recognizing that vehicle manufacturers want to design vehicles that include the products that consumers expect, the proposed rules would encourage manufacturers to design systems so that they would not require drivers to use their hands or divert their eyes from the primary task of driving.

Phase I includes recommendations to reduce task complexity and the length of time necessary to complete tasks, limit device operation to one hand, limit off road glances required for device operation to no more than 2 seconds, limit unnecessary visual information in driver’s field of vision and limit the amount of manual inputs required for device operation. The proposed guidelines would also recommend that vehicles be equipped with devices that would disable the following operations unless intended for use by the passenger unless the vehicle is stopped and in park:

  1. Visual-manual texting or internet browsing
  2. Visual-manual social media browsing
  3. Visual-manual 10 digit phone dialing  and
  4. Displaying to the driver more than 30 characters of text unrelated to the task of driving.

Phase II and Phase III guidelines to be released in the future would potentially address devices not built into but brought into the vehicle and used while driving, including navigation systems, smart phones, tablets and pads and other voice activated controls to reduce distractions.

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