The auto industry’s current guidelines, which are a decade old, allow drivers to read text and perform other more complex tasks while cars are moving at less than 5 mph, Strickland said. Systems now are designed so multiple-step tasks take 10 or fewer screen touches for a total of 20 seconds with a driver’s eyes off the road. But the devices won’t turn off or stop a driver from doing something that takes longer than 20 seconds.
The new guidelines “will help us put an end to the dangerous practice of distracted driving by limiting the amount of time drivers take their eyes off the road,” Strickland said.
The Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, a group representing 12 large car makers, is worried that drivers will simply turn their eyes to something else: their mobile devices.
Gloria Bergquist, spokeswoman for the alliance, said a mobile device, with its smaller buttons and screens, “wasn’t designed for use while driving a vehicle.” She said guidelines for mobile devices should be proposed at the same time as those for in-car equipment, which is designed to be used while driving.
NHTSA said it will address mobile devices and voice-activation technology in the next phases of guidelines. But it encouraged mobile device makers to adopt recommendations from Tuesday’s guidelines “that they believe are feasible and appropriate for their devices.”
The guidelines cover any manufacturer-installed device that a driver can see or reach, but they do not affect video screens located behind the front seats.
Navigation maps that show movement as cars travel would still be allowed, as would the input of preset destinations, Strickland said. But a car would likely have to be stopped for a driver to manually type in an address.
NHTSA said more research is needed to decide if the guidelines should cover heavy trucks and buses.