Opponents say an in-car electronics ban will make driving more dangerous

Ford Edge dash featuring MyFord TouchIn the brave new world of the 21st century, cars are about more than driving. They are full of touch screens, voice recognition software, and whatever BMW’s iDrive controller is. They deliver entertainment and information, and keep people connected with their social networks. Some critics, including the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), think these features are too distracting; last month, the NHTSA proposed regulations to curb embedded electronics.

Now, an auto industry trade group is saying the proposed regulations will actually make driving more dangerous. Mike Cammisa, director of safety for Global Automakers, a trade group that represents Honda, Toyota, and other carmakers, told government officials that restricting systems like iDrive and MyFord Touch would encourage drivers to use portable devices behind the wheel. “It does seem likely that drivers will use other devices not subject to the guidelines,” Cammisa said.

Markus Hess, speaking for Mercedes-Benz, agreed with Cammisa. Hess said regulations “will have the unfortunate consequence of encouraging drivers to use their handheld devices.”

Built-in systems have the obvious advantage of allowing a person to drive without holding a phone. Their touch screens and controllers are supposed to limit the number of inputs a driver needs to make, keeping his or her hands away from the wheel for a minimal amount of time. MYFord Touch and other systems can be operated with voice commands.

However, the absence of buttons, combined the sheer number of functions these systems are expected to perform, means that using one often involves scrolling through several menus or reciting a long series of commands to the computer.

While only 3 percent of police-reported crashes in 2010 (the most recent year with available data) were the result of embedded electronic devices, the NHTSA feels they should be regulated first because most people choose them over handheld devices, when available.

So far the proposals, which the NHTSA announced last month, consist of guidelines for making in-car systems easier and less time-consuming to operate. The guidelines were developed in concert with the Alliance of Automobile manufacturers, a trade group that represents the Big Three as well as Toyota and others.

The NHTSA is planning a second phase of guidelines that would limit the use of handheld devices. “How we deal with driving needs to be a holistic approach,” NHTSA administrator David Strickland said.

While the NHTSA has made many proposals, it has not moved to turn any of them into binding federal regulations. Last year, it suggested that all states ban the use of cell phones, even ones that can be used hands-free, while driving. However, the ban is still merely a suggestion.

The American people must be happy to know that neither their government nor the people making their cars think they can act responsibly behind the wheel. Is anyone going to prove them wrong?

Smart Home

Busted: Facebook Portal gets 5-star reviews from company employees

It's fair to say that Facebook's Portal smart display received a tepid response at launch, so it was something of a surprise to see lots of glowing reviews of the device on Amazon. Turns out some were written by Facebook workers.
Emerging Tech

A Japanese hotel fires half its robot staff for being bad at their jobs

Japan’s oddball Henn na Hotel has fired half of its 243 robot staff. The reason? Because these labor-saving machines turned out to be causing way more problems than they were solving.
Emerging Tech

Short film celebrates New Yorker’s amazing robot costumes

New York City resident Peter Kokis creates stunning robot costumes out of household trash. His designs are huge, heavy, and extremely intricate, and never fail to turn heads when he's out and about.
Smart Home

IKEA’s new blinds for the smart home arrive April 1 in the U.S.

The Swedish furniture giant IKEA is adding a new product called FYRTUR, which turns out to be a new set of blackout blinds for the smart home that can be controlled by remote or programmed through the company's app.
Cars

Muscle cars, trucks, and EVs roared into the subdued 2019 Detroit Auto Show

The 2019 Detroit Auto Show was the quietest edition of the event in recent memory, but that doesn't mean nothing significant happened inside the Cobo Center. Here are the new cars and concepts we saw at the show.
Cars

Big tech, bigger grille: BMW updates its 7 Series flagship for 2020

The BMW 7 Series will enter the 2020 model year with a host of updates inside, outside, and under the sheet metal. The new-look nose with a jumbo grille hides updated engines, while passengers benefit from smart tech features.
Emerging Tech

Ford’s sweaty robot bottom can simulate 10 years of seat use in mere days

Ford has developed 'Robutt,' a sweaty robot bottom that's designed to simulate the effects of having a pair of human buttocks sitting on its car seats for thousands of hours. Check it out.
Cars

In McLaren’s 600LT Spider, the engine is the only sound system you’ll need

The McLaren 600LT Spider is the inevitable convertible version of the 600LT coupe, itself a lighter, more powerful version of the McLaren 570S. The 600LT Spider boasts a 592-horsepower, twin-turbo V8, and a loud exhaust system to hear it…
Cars

Robomart’s self-driving grocery store is like Amazon Go on wheels

Robomart's driverless vehicle is like an Amazon Go store on wheels, with sensors tracking what you grab from the shelves. If you don't want to shop online or visit the grocery store yourself, Robomart will bring the store to you.
News

Ford has a plan to future-proof the hot-selling F-150 pickup truck

Worried about the threat of rising gas prices, Ford will add the F-150 to its growing portfolio of electrified vehicles. It is currently developing a hybrid F-150, and it will release an electric version of the next-generation truck.
Cars

Ford’s Mustang-inspired electric crossover will spawn a Lincoln luxury version

Lincoln will get its own version of parent Ford's first mass-market, long-range electric vehicle. While Ford's version will have styling inspired by the Mustang, Lincoln will take a more traditional approach.
Home Theater

Spotify adds simplified Car View mode for Android users

What was once just a test is now a reality: Spotify is rolling out a new, simplified in-car user interface for all Android users called Car View, which automatically engages when the app detects a car Bluetooth connection.
Cars

Boutique carmaker Karma Automotive, legendary design firm Pininfarina team up

Karma Automotive is partnering with legendary Italian design firm Pininfarina on future luxury cars. The first product of that partnership will appear later this year, Karma said, without offering other details.
Cars

Sibling rivalry: 2019 BMW Z4 takes on the 2020 Toyota Supra

BMW and Toyota forged an unlikely partnership when they set out to build a sports car platform together. Here, we examine the similarities and differences between the 2019 Z4 and the 2020 Supra.