LAS VEGAS -- Apple and Google are slowly but surely securing a niche in the cockpit for their smartphone-style apps and interfaces. But most automakers and traditional suppliers aren't content to let mobile-phone technology dictate how drivers interact with their vehicles.
That's a task for companies that better understand the demands on a driver's attention, they say.
Take, for example, a driver traveling in heavy traffic and swerving to avoid a collision on an icy road. How important would it be at the moment for him to be alerted to an incoming phone call or to get an instant Facebook notification?
Such questions have key suppliers such as Bosch, Panasonic and Harman working on cockpit features that control which infotainment functions the driver can see or use, depending on conditions. The idea is not to freeze out all smartphone apps but to provide a safer way to use them, says Juergen Peters, president of North American car multimedia at Robert Bosch GmbH.
"You need to consider the driving situation you are in, and prioritize what you would display," Peters said at a media briefing at the International CES here. "You wouldn't want to display a radio station in a critical situation when you have to change lanes."
A Bosch system under development analyzes weather and real-time traffic conditions on the road ahead to control access to infotainment functions. If the driver is trying to change lanes on an icy road, the system might block an incoming phone call. Later, when conditions are safe, the system would send through the missed-call alert.
"Technologically, it is something we can do today," Peters said.