The Visteon Corp. stand at Convergence 2000 brimmed with electronics technology including telematics, voice recognition, advanced power generation and entertainment systems.
But all that new technology will be for naught if it pulls the driver's attention away from the road. Michael Johnston, Visteon's new president, touched on the subject of driver distraction in an interview with Staff Reporter Amy Wilson at Convergence. Here are some of his edited comments.
With the new telematics systems and other in-vehicle communications devices being proposed, how does Visteon address the subject of driver distraction?
After my three weeks here, I'm convinced that Visteon has a leadership position in the voice recognition arena. That gives the driver or the occupant the ability to direct activities and communications and technologies without taking their hands off the wheel or their eyes off the road. That opens up incredible services of things where we don't have to have screens, we don't have to be touching buttons for things to happen. One of the things we'll see developed here next is text-to-voice technology. That will really be a key if you're going to, for example, get your e-mail in the vehicle and not be distracted by reading.
What might rulemakers have to say on the implementation of in-vehicle communications?
That's going to be driven by the consumer. Consumers are expecting and deserving a safe driving experience, and the technology that's being developed and enabled today is going to deliver that for them. So it's perfect timing. There's certainly heightened awareness on driver safety.
As new technologies such as telematics and adaptive cruise control are added to vehicles, what does the industry need to do to better prepare drivers to use such systems?
I think what we'll see is the technology will have more capability than the consumer. So just as you add electronics to your study at home it takes a lot of training to use all the capability that's there, and the same thing will certainly be necessary, starting with driver education programs. I think we're looking at doing something from a consumer research institute that probably will address what are the training needs we need to address and make sure that we have the ability to really explain the technology that's going to be available.
Will such programs end up being voluntary?
I don't know. You'd almost like to see it not. You'd like to see it certainly in driver education classes be covered, so people have a base proficiency. Actually, that particular audience is probably more capable of utilizing the technology than I am. Whether it's a dealership experience or however the vehicle is delivered in the future, certainly part of that should be a training experience that allows people to use the technology - because it will be a safer drive, not just for the person in that vehicle, but for everybody on the road.
How much control should the user have over programming in-vehicle electronics?
There may be parts that become mandatory with other parts are optional. We want the consumer to be able to customize that experience for themselves. We also want to provide a safe work environment. You go back 20 years or so and look at seatbelts, the process that went through, I think you'll see a much shorter process of mandatory safety, but I can't describe accurately what that will be like.
What privacy concerns should drivers have about the tracking ability that in-vehicle electronics devices create?
The technology is available to make it very trackable. There are certain conditions where you absolutely would want that to happen, say in a collision or some situation where the driver is impaired and not able to communicate. You'll want to be able to pinpoint that location. Whether you want your personal presence monitored on an ongoing basis, my guess is probably not a lot of people will want that. You've got to do the consumer research to make sure we're providing the technology they want and need. At some point, we could probably outfit the vehicle in a way that would be totally not-consumer friendly, but could provide all kinds of stuff for us.