As far as infotainment is concerned, the next big thing may be electronic nannies.
Andrew Brown Jr., Delphi Automotive's chief technologist, says it would be possible to design infotainment systems that could limit a motorist's activities if road conditions look dangerous.
The nanny would let a motorist engage in safe behavior - say, using voice commands to place a call to a spouse. But a text message while tailgating a semi at 95 mph would be denied.
Infotainment systems already are designed to allow certain functions - say, manually entering a destination into a navigator - only while the vehicle is at rest. The next step? An infotainment system could determine that some functions that are normally allowed when the vehicle is moving should be shut down because road conditions are too dangerous.
The technology for such a system exists, Brown says. In California, for instance, AAA offers discounts to motorists who agree to install Delphi's aftermarket unit in their vehicles. Delphi introduced the device, dubbed Vehicle Diagnostics, in January as an aftermarket product sold at Verizon stores.
The device can track vehicle speed and detect signs of erratic driving, such as drifting out of the road lane.
"You can tie it right into the car's telematics system and capture real-time information on driver performance," Brown says. "The system has the capability to do that. The question is: What does the automaker want?"
But there are privacy issues. Would motorists want the vehicle to monitor their actions so closely? And if the vehicle can do so, who might have access to that data? Brown cautions that has yet to be determined.