Technology's role in distracted driving

The auto and tech industries have taken notice of distracted driving. Some tools have already been invented to curb the effects, while other technologies are quickly developing from budding ideas to larger-than-life innovations. 

Technology's role in distracted driving blog
The auto and tech industries have taken notice of the distracted-driving epidemic, creatings apps, self-driving cars and innovative gadgets to help curb the issue.

Today, nine out of 10 Americans you pass on the road own a cellphone. And despite knowing the risk, a study done by AT&T shows that about 70 percent of those cellphone owners report using them while driving. With traffic fatalities rising by the largest percent in 50 years in 2015 (according to the National Safety Council, or NSC), distracted driving has undeniably become a national epidemic.

The automobile and tech industries have taken notice. Some tools have already been invented to curb the effects of this rampant roadway issue, while other technologies are quickly developing from budding ideas to larger-than-life innovations.

Technology got us in this mess, and technology is going to get us out. At least, that’s the sentiment of Deborah Hersman, the president of the NSC.

Here’s a look at some of the experimental technologies developed to curtail the epidemic of distracted driving:

Automatic emergency braking (AEB)

According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), many drivers involved in rear-end crashes either do not apply their brakes at all or don’t apply them enough.  

IIHS reports that AEB technology can reduce injury claims by as much as 35 percent – it’s essentially like another set of eyes on the roadway. Sensors on your car (cameras, radars and lasers) scan the road ahead for obstacles. If an imminent crash is detected, the system alerts the driver and begins automatically braking to reduce the severity of or prevent the collision.

A few years ago, AEB was a rare, futuristic feature only found in high-end vehicles. With distracted driving on the rise, this device is well on its way to becoming standard.  In 2016, 20 automakers pledged to “make AEB standard on virtually all light-duty cars and trucks … no later than September 1, 2022.” Those 20 automakers, which include Honda, GM, Ford and Toyota, represent more than 99 percent of the U.S.’ new-car market.

Lane departure warning (LDW) and lane keep support (LKS)

Like AEB, LDW can pick up the slack for a distracted driver.  Say you’re reaching into the passenger seat for a bite of that drive-thru cheeseburger you just picked up and temporarily take your eyes off the road... LDW alerts drivers with an audio or visual alert when they unintentionally drift out of a lane without a turn signal on. 

While LDW leaves the correction up to the driver, LKS goes a step further by taking action. If sensors detect that a car is about to unintentionally move out of its lane, LKS will correct the steering and return the vehicle to its intended path.

Eye tracking technology

If you thought automatically-braking cars were space-age, imagine a world where cars were able to monitor your eyes and tell if you weren’t paying enough attention to the road.

Well, that technology may not be too far off. While it is still being developed, some car manufacturers are experimenting with eye-tracking technology as “distraction monitoring systems” or “driver attention monitors.” 

According to the Wall Street Journal, GM plans to soon launch an eye-tracking system called “Super Cruise” in their Cadillac CT6. This system will be able to detect when a driver’s gaze has shifted, prompting the car to send visual and audio alerts to regain the driver’s attention. If the driver does not respond to the alert, an operator from OnStar will try to make contact with the driver. If the driver ignores both of these attempts, the car will then pull over to the side of the road.


Cellphone blocking technology

If you’re a cellphone owner, you know the intense gravitational pull felt in response to a ding or vibration indicating the arrival of a new message. For most people, that magnetism unfortunately doesn’t go away when driving.

Cellphone blocking technology removes the temptation altogether by prohibiting calls or texts while a vehicle is in motion. This technology can come in the form of a downloadable app, adding a service to your wireless plan or installing a device into your vehicle to create a “geofence” (a virtual barrier).  Devices that connect with onboard diagnostics stop your phone when the car is engaged and can send an auto reply to calls and texts.

Technically, phone makers already possess the technology to cut off drivers. Apple actually has a patent on technology designed to prevent texting while driving. Due to stiff competition in the industry, Hersman says companies simply “don’t have the stomach to implement it” yet.

While apps, self-driving cars and innovative gadgets are sure to help our growing compulsion with smartphones, they alone can’t eradicate the problem. Make Kentucky’s roads a safe place to be, and join Kentucky Farm Bureau in driving distraction-free.


>> In Kentucky, there’s so much to live for. Join us in driving distraction-free.
To learn more about distracted driving’s prevalence in the Bluegrass State, click here.