Connected Car Innovations Leading to Safer Roads

by Jennifer Kent | Apr. 28, 2017

Distracted driving is a critical and growing issue. IoT Peggy Smedley kindly invited me to join her show this week as she focuses on IoT and Transportation this month, particularly in regards to distracted driving.

Listen to the full interview.

Parks Associates research shows that 92% of U.S. car owners perform activities that require mobile or Internet connection while driving, and more than 60% do so routinely. These activities include making calls, accessing maps, texting, and accessing various apps.

Car owners perform these activities on a regular basis despite over 60% believing they are dangerous. Most report they only engage in these activities when stopped or parked, or only out of absolute necessity. Still, 20% of car owners say they make or receive voice calls routinely, “even though I know it can be dangerous.” Another 12% say they do it routinely “because it’s not dangerous at all.” These stats are concerning.

In-car technology, as it relates to safety, is progressing along two tracks:

  1. Integration of technology into the vehicle to promote hands-free tech use.
  2. Autonomous driving vehicles to remove the driver from the equation entirely, and even allow the driver to engage with devices in the car.

Technology integration is now commonplace in new vehicles and expanding across the light-vehicle fleet on the road today. Seeing separate devices—smartphones particularly—as distractions in the car, auto OEMs are incorporating as much of this technology directly into the vehicle as possible. Infotainment systems are now loaded with apps, some of which require the smartphone to be tethered in some way, and some not. But, does this really make them any less distracting?

The majority of car owners are concerned that such connected car features will lead to distracted driving, and 41% are “very concerned.”

The real innovation is voice control, which frees up the use of both hands and allows eyes to stay on the road for more focused driving. More car makers are integrating voice recognition and control into their vehicles. A key element to voice control will be the accuracy and usability of this technology in the car. If the car doesn’t understand what command consumers are trying to give, people will likely resort to fiddling with their smartphone instead. As more auto OEMs integrate leading voice technology, such as Amazon’s Alexa and Microsoft’s Cortana, the user experience should improve.

Plus, consumer familiarity with voice control in other areas of their lives is increasing. 44% of consumers in U.S. broadband households report using a voice-controlled personal assistant, like Siri or Google Now/Assistant. As consumers become more familiar with voice-control, and these services get more accurate and reliable, we expect this user interface to be in higher demand across device types—including cars.

Fully autonomous vehicles are designed to combat distracted driving by removing the driver from the equation entirely. However, we are still years away from fully-autonomous vehicles being a solution to distracted driving problems. Only 12% of U.S. consumers who are intending to purchase a brand new car this year show interest in purchasing a self-driving vehicle.

While fully-autonomous cars are not yet on the market, self-driving features and systems, such as adaptive cruise control, lane change warnings, and park-assist, are rolling out system-by-system. This step-by-step approach helps acclimate consumers to what will be a dramatic shift in driving culture. Combined with a major push in natural-language-processing voice-control for in-vehicle tasks, we may start to see a real impact on safer driving.

Further Reading:

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