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 |  Mar 26 2012, 8:32 PM

Last week, details of NHTSA’s distracted driving guidelines were released with some of it focusing on in-car navigation technology.

NHTSA proposed that static images on navigation displays would help make drivers less distracted, but we agree that such a restriction almost defeats the purpose of real-time navigation entirely.

Thankfully, AT&T Labs is thinking outside the box and perhaps providing a solution to lessen distracted driving. The idea is to incorporate haptic feedback into our steering wheels – much like what video gamers get with their simulators – in order to notify us when to turn instead of having to look at on-screen instructions.

Haptic feedback is pretty common in today’s world. We have it on our phones and tablets, each time we push a key, a slight vibration lets us know something happened. Those same vibrations could be sent to the steering wheel in a clockwise or counter-clockwise pattern in order to let you know when to turn right or left.

The study is currently being conducted by AT&T Labs and researchers at Carnegie Mellon University and the initial reports are promising. Through the use of driving simulators and incorporating haptic feedback in the steering wheel, drivers are able to keep their eyes on the road longer for more attentive driving.

The haptic feedback study also showed that drivers made fewer errors while turning because they didn’t have to listen to a voice to know where and when to turn.

Instead of removing functionality from something as important as navigation (by incorporating static images), it seems there may be ways to make it even better and less distracting.

[Source: Technology Review]

 |  Mar 12 2011, 9:00 PM

Before you get too excited, the Taser app isn’t what you think it is. But what it will do is protect your family while they are driving.

A special app that’s only available for Blackberry and Android platforms (it needs Bluetooth to function properly), the Taser prevents cell-phone related driving distractions, promotes responsible driving behaviors, and offers important information you may need in emergency situations. Basically, it locks down your cell phone while you are behind the wheel, so you get that peace of mind for when your teen borrows the car.

Here’s how it works: the app uses Bluetooth to communicate via a small dongle that connects to the vehicle’s diagnostic port. When it makes a connection, it locks down the phone except for the Taser app which gives the user only basic functionality including voice dialing and 911 access. You also get GPS and cellular functionality (with its own SIM card). If you really want to keep an eye on what your teens are doing, it will keep track of a vehicle’s location and will report unsafe driving behavior and accidents – it’s the perfect snitch.

The Taser kit will cost you $249.95 plus a recurring fee starting at $14.95/month. If the price doesn’t shock you (sorry, couldn’t resist), the Taser may be a worthwhile investment, especially if you want to monitor your young drivers.

[Source: Oh Gizmo]

 |  Sep 04 2010, 2:49 PM

It seems as though drivers can be distracted by just about anything. First, there was a lot of concern about cell phones, and then it was all about kids in the car. And don’t forget the dangers of eating and driving. Now we’ve got another distraction to add to the list: your pets.

A new study conducted by the American Automobile Association (AAA) that was based on 1,000 dog owners who have driven with their pet in the car during the past year. They found that 31 percent of those who responded admitted to being distracted by their dog. Furthermore, 59 percent have engaged in various distracting behaviors involving their pets – this included petting their dog (more than 50 percent); allowing their dog to sit on their lap in the driver’s seat (21 percent); and giving their dog food and water or playing with them while driving.

Are you guilty of doing any of the above mentioned offenses? Even if you only do it for a few seconds, it can still increase the risk of a crash. In fact, the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety found that taking your eyes off the road for as little as two seconds doubles your crash risk.

The study goes on to say the 88 percent of those polled drive with their pets on occasion, but only 17 percent use a pet restraint. It’s hard to think about, but an unrestrained pet can be a dangerous projectile in a crash, not only causing serious injury to your beloved pet, but also to all other passengers in the vehicle.

“An unrestrained 10-pound dog in a crash at 50 mph will exert roughly 500 pounds of pressure, while an unrestrained 80-pound dog in a crash at only 30 mph will exert 2,400 pounds of pressure,” says Beth Mosher, AAA Director of Public Affairs.

Many vehicles already come with special equipment packages that help keep your pet safety contained. As well, major pet stores and online retailers sell restraint harnesses and other devices to help keep you and your pooch safe on the road.

[Source: Consumer Reports]

 |  Aug 01 2010, 7:43 AM

We’ve covered the dangers of texting while driving, and how distracting kids can be in the car. But here’s another serious concern we’d like to address: bickering couples.

Arguing and driving – it’s sometime hard to separate the two in the car, especially when it comes to spouses. A British survey conducted by car accessories retailer Halfords says that than 70 percent of drivers admit to being involved in some sort of in-car argument in the last month and 18 percent confessed they have in-car fights at least once a week. In the US, drivers fair a bit better – navigation software producer TeleNav did a similar survey and found that 55 percent of respondents reported being involved in arguments while driving.

In the Halfords study, 65 percent said that the fights started because of the other person’s poor navigation skills. And here’s a no-brainer – 80 percent of the women polled complained that their partners never looked at the directions before hand, while 85 percent argued because of the driver’s refusal to ask for directions once they got lost.

And we’re not so different on this side of the pond. The TeleNav survey found that the most common reason for road rage between couples was due to opposing views on how to get to a location and refusing to ask for directions. To add insult to injury, 17 percent of respondents accused the other of being a bad driver.

So how do you resolve this issue? Getting a GPS would solve the problem. However, we don’t really have any concrete solutions about how to do away with fights that start because of bad driver accusations. An old saying comes to mind: “If you don’t have anything nice to say, then don’t say anything at all.” That is, at least, until you reach you destination, and you don’t have to worry about walking the rest of the way.

[Source: Kicking Tires]