We asked industry executives at the Detroit auto show last week: What should the industry do to ensure in-vehicle Internet features don't become a new driver safety problem? Here are some responses:
'To some extent it will be a matter of self-restraint by each manufacturer. We face a problem in the future that vehicles will have so many new features that they will look like the cockpit of an airplane. We must find simple ways to control them with the least effort and the least ambiguity. What we are doing is to control as many of our features by voice. And even the voice interface that we use must not cause a distraction to the driver. Perhaps a lady's voice would be more distracting to one person, who might instead select a voice that sounds like an army sergeant.'
Gerhard Fritz, vice president of development, DaimlerChrysler AG
'We will hopefully develop ways for you to communicate without taking your eyes off the road or fumbling with a cell phone. Voice activation goes a long way toward that. One of the things we still have to work out is how much voice activation is enough and how much is too much.'
J Mays, vice president of design, Ford Motor Co.
'We don't have Internet features in our development plans. We have not determined yet that it's something that our customers want. It can result in a conflict for the driver if we overload his attention with features. We are moving more controls to the steering wheel, which should help. Voice controls are going to help. But even then, the human being can only do so much at once.'
Christer Gustafsson, senior engineer traffic accident research, Volvo Car Corp.