I recall reading a long time ago about the advent of the automatic transmission in vehicles and the problems encountered with the gear selector.
At first there was no uniformity among manufacturers on where the gear selector was positioned and how it should be arranged. So all the carmakers did it differently.
Often selectors would have Neutral, then Drive and then Reverse. I have read that the lack of a single system caused a lot of accidents before they figured out how to fix the problem.
How did they fix it? Well, this all happened long before there was a National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. The industry had to come together and fix it.
We ended up with an industry standard: PRNDL.
Standardization of vehicle controls remains a big issue.
I am lucky enough to drive many cars during the year and am constantly amazed at how different the controls can be from vehicle to vehicle. I am talking about some of the most basic controls -- the ones that are critical to safety.
If you get into any vehicle in the United States, particularly after sunset, the chances of finding the light switch are 50-50. It's almost never in the same place. And if you are fortunate enough to locate the switch, the controls don't function in the same way. This has to be a problem for people who rent cars and must drive at night.
If it happens to be raining, finding the wiper controls can be a nightmare. And good luck if the windshield fogs up while you're trying to get the wiper and the headlights to function.
Those problems have been around for decades, but they still need fixing. And I think an industry group such as SAE should take charge of the matter rather than the government.
This seems to be a perfect challenge for SAE. We don't need a government mandate, just some cooperation. People in the industry should work together to standardize the placement of safety-related controls.
Add those challenges to the already daunting task of eliminating driver distractions, and there are plenty of difficult problems for the industry to tackle.
But I would certainly prefer to see the industry tackle them rather than the government.