There seems to be a huge discrepancy between what the law [seems to] say and what auto makers are introducing…
A short while ago, I wrote a huge article that outlined my vision for iOS in the Car. There had been much speculation that the effort had stalled or had died at Apple, as there had been no real news, development or even concept art that had been introduced or released since Apple originally announced the effort. So, I stepped up and offered up what I thought, at a bare minimum, should be covered in the technology.
I saw an article on Apple Insider early on Monday morning (2014-03-03) where Apple had not only announced what iOS in the Car – now called CarPlay – will do, but which manufacturing partners will introduce the first versions of it. There are even some photos. Whether they are concept or production photos remains to be seen. I just hope that Apple sells the infotainment system so that aftermarket installers can retrofit vehicles with it. It looks like a great setup.
However, I have heard of some developments here in the States that gave me what I like to call a V-8 (smack myself in the forehead due to previously missing the point) moment. There seems to be a huge discrepancy between the law and what automakers and technology companies are providing. That’s something that needs to clear up ASAP.
You may be familiar with the Cecelia Abadie case in California involving Abadie’s use of Google Glass while driving. There’s a California law that states that drivers can’t have any kind of video screen playing in front of them while they drive. This is the law that the citing officer used when issuing the ticket Ms. Abadie received. Interestingly enough, another California court also indicated that using a navigation app on a smartphone or other device in a vehicle doesn’t violate that same law.
There’s a discrepancy here that needs to be resolved.
The problem is that distracted driving was already against the law well BEFORE smartphones were invented and became popular. So from a legal perspective, the EXTRA legislation is redundant, and somewhat contradictory. The other problems evolve around the mixed message from the legislature, and the car manufacturers.
Some pretty high end car manufacturers – Ferrari, Mercedes-Benz and Volvo to start – will join Ford, GM, Honda, Jaguar, Kia, Nissan and Toyota, among others, and will provide CarPlay infotainment systems from Apple in coming model years. Formerly called iOS in the Car, the system sounds a little like what I speced. The system’s main interface is Siri and is accessed from a hardware button mounted on the steering wheel. Vehicles that come with a touch screen will also allow drivers to operate the system via touch. Manufacturers are left to their own devices for creating designs for consoles equipped with CarPlay systems.
The issues here are many :
→ Current legislation prevents users from using video screens in vehicles, yet many popular and high end models, Tesla’s Model S for example, which includes a portrait mounted 17″ screen mounted in the center console, as well as any CarPlay enabled vehicle, include video screens that the driver can not only see, but interact with.
→ Current legislation doesn’t seem to include navigation apps, contradicting laws currently on the books, or at the very least, making the application of those laws more confusing (at least in California, where the above ruling has jurisdiction).
→ According to the current press on CarPlay that I have seen, playing video while the vehicle is moving, on these screens is not prevented. At least, I couldn’t find any information indicating that it was…
→ The car manufacturers I’ve noted, as well as others interested in providing the systems, all do so, apparently inviting users to violate distracted driving laws.
The system will allow drivers to place and receive phone calls, listen to voice mail messages, access contacts and have text messages read to them by Siri. Navigation is an inherent part of the system and includes turn-by-turn directions, likely provided by Apple Maps, and will display on the video screen that is part of the system (and not on your docked iPhone). Video is displayed on CarPlay systems via an adaptation of AirPlay technology. Drivers will also be able to access all iPod content as well as streaming services like Spotify, iTunes Radio and Beats Music, among others. The system will appear in 2014 model year vehicles from Ferrari, Mercedes-Benz and Volvo and will come to all current iOS iPhones running iOS 7. It will work with Lightning-enabled iPhones, including the iPhone 5s/5c/5.
The issue here is the contradiction between (most of) the distracted driving laws that specifically deal with smartphone use while users operate a motor vehicle and what will be provided by manufacturers supplying CarPlay compatible vehicles. The equipped car by its very nature, violates the law. Its enticing the driver to drive distracted because many smartphone-specific distracted driving laws prevent users from making calls without hands free equipment, but prevent them from using video screens in the car unless that video screen is displaying a navigation app. Unfortunately, the display changes when calls come in to display caller ID information. Notification bars appear on the top of the screen when email, text messages and other events occur. The very nature of the systems functionality seems to violate the law as it attempts to alert the driver to the incoming events, taking their attention away from the screen.
Again, the problem is the SPECIFIC legislation regarding smartphone use in the vehicle. Obviously the solution would be to let the PREVIOUS legislation that prohibited distracted driving take precedence and to remove the contradicting, smartphone specific legislation from the books. However, I don’t think this is going to happen. It’s too logical and straight forward for our legislators to adopt.
Don’t get me wrong. I really like what Apple is going to do with CarPlay. The next big vehicle I buy is going to have the system built in. If I can purchase CarPlay as an aftermarket add-in for my 2003 Toyota Camry, I will; but likely AFTER it won’t send me to traffic court…or jail.
What do you think? There are going to be a great many articles about what CarPlay is and what it can do in your vehicle. I’ll probably write a few more as additional details come out about the system in the coming days and weeks. However, I wanted to post this question to everyone first.
You can see a full demo of Volvo’s implementation below.
Is CarPlay a good idea? Will it cause a legal quandary? Will distracted driving laws get clarified or will they become a bigger mess due to the Abadie case and the ruling by a CA judge that navigation apps don’t violate the distracted driving laws? Can users of these systems successfully challenge smartphone-centric distracted driving laws and have them struck down? I’d love to hear what you have to say. Please join me in the discussion below and let me know what you think.