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Government Transportation

NHTSA Suggestion Would Cripple In-Car GPS Displays 516

bricko writes "The recently issued National Highway Transportation Safety Agency guidelines for automakers to minimize distraction for in-vehicle electronics included a proposal to freeze maps on navigation systems. No more scrolling maps...just static pictures. 'Every current installed navigation system uses the car as a fixed point, and shows the map moving around it. NHTSA wants that changed so as to keep the map fixed. Even showing the position of the car moving on the map could be considered a dynamic image. The recommendation seems to suggest that the position of the car could only be updated every couple of seconds. Likewise, the map could be refreshed once the car has left the currently displayed area. This recommendation would essentially make navigation unusable. The system could still give an auditory warning for the next turn, but without being able to glance down at the map and see how close the next street is would likely lead to a lot of missed turns and resultant frustration.'"
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NHTSA Suggestion Would Cripple In-Car GPS Displays

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  • This Is A Bad Idea (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday March 25, 2012 @08:32AM (#39465311)

    People will just realize they are about to go the wrong way and change lanes even later than they already do.

  • Bunch of idiots (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday March 25, 2012 @08:36AM (#39465323)

    I swear, government must be run by the lowest common denominator.

    Your brain will easily tune out a smoothly scrolling picture that has minute changes one frame to the next. A change in the visual environment that is small will not trigger a threat assessment by the brain.

    However, if the image is still, and then suddenly changes, that is a far more significant change in the visualized environment, and the brain will tune to it to see if that change represents a threat.

  • by Tanuki64 ( 989726 ) on Sunday March 25, 2012 @08:36AM (#39465325)

    Drivers should focus on the street and the traffic and not being distracted by some ads.

  • Hyperbole much? (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Maury Markowitz ( 452832 ) on Sunday March 25, 2012 @08:37AM (#39465327) Homepage

    "This recommendation would essentially make navigation unusable."

    Paper maps don't scroll OR indicate where you are. They've been providing perfectly usable navigation services for thousands of years.

    Oh, you mean "automated I'm too lazy to figure out where I'm going before I start the trip because I can't be bothered to learn which way is north" navigation?

    I don't see anything outlawing voice systems. Do you?

  • by realityimpaired ( 1668397 ) on Sunday March 25, 2012 @08:37AM (#39465337)

    *shrugs* If I need GPS, I use my cell phone. It has current maps, and doesn't require me to buy a $200 update every few months so I'm up to date.

    I also stuff it in the cup holder and just listen to the auditory commands, if I'm using it for navigation. The screen *is* a distraction. If I want to study the route, I'll do it when the car isn't moving.

    Actually, to that end, I'm a bit surprised that the NHTSA isn't suggesting that the in-dash navigation systems should blank the screen while the car is moving. That would make things significantly safer, I think.. they could even make it so that if it's pulled out and facing the passenger seat instead of the driver, the screen unblanks and updates, so that a passenger can give directions.

  • by msobkow ( 48369 ) on Sunday March 25, 2012 @08:43AM (#39465371) Homepage Journal

    For those of you bleating about how this idea will make GPS "unusable", I have one question:

    Have you ever used a paper map?

    Remember the "bad old days" of folding out the map at the side of the road, looking at it, and planning the next leg of your trip?

    That's right: figuring out where and when you have to turn BEFORE you reach the turn. Actually KNOWING where you're going instead of letting a machine do the "thinking".

    This change would not cause the world to come to a sudden end, but it might well force people to think and plan for themselves again. And if that means some brain-dead loser suddenly can't get where they're going, I say "good riddance -- you were a road hazard anyhow, careening around the streets with no idea where you are going."

  • Velocity (Score:3, Insightful)

    by michaelmalak ( 91262 ) <> on Sunday March 25, 2012 @08:48AM (#39465405) Homepage

    Not only that, but the car's velocity would no longer be conveyed with a static display. It's why digital numeric-readout speedometers were a failure in 1980's Fords -- they didn't convey acceleration.

  • by rolfwind ( 528248 ) on Sunday March 25, 2012 @08:51AM (#39465427)

    Growing up, I remember the bad old days where my dad was trying read a map at the same time as driving, when I was to young to act as navigator. Or a couple of near hits on his part while navigating a foreign city looking for a specific street sign and not really watching the road.

    He now uses GPS and is probably safer than most of my generation, because he doesn't know texting and isn't addicted to a smart phone, but that's another story.

  • NHTSA = dumb !@#$% (Score:5, Insightful)

    by PortHaven ( 242123 ) on Sunday March 25, 2012 @08:52AM (#39465429) Homepage

    1. All this will do is encourage people NOT to waste $2,500 on in car GPS units and use their cell phones handheld or mounted to their dashboards.

    2. It clearly shows the NHTSA hasn't done any real research on this issue. If they had, they would have come out with a much different solution. My own independent research has made it clear that GPS units screen movement are not the issue but the location of the unit. (off to the right, centered in console)

    Safety would be greatly improved by relocating the GPS console to the driver's side directly in line of sight, and with a night heads-up display even better. Why is this? Because having it in the center of the console forces drivers to look away from the road, and offers ZERO reduction in distraction. However, placement in front of the driver's line of sight does something interesting. Even when the driver is distracted by looking at the screen, the road remains in the driver's line of sight, and the driver's peripheral vision remains on the road.

    Peripheral vision is attuned to movement. A driver is able to still be alerted to an incoming car or obstacle even while focusing on the GPS screen when it is position properly.

    D@|\/|N Government....

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday March 25, 2012 @08:54AM (#39465439)

    While we're at it, why not get rid of all those other dynamic displays: gas gauge, speedometer, rear-view mirror ...

  • by PortHaven ( 242123 ) on Sunday March 25, 2012 @08:54AM (#39465445) Homepage

    Yes, and I remember how often I got friggin lost. Or how !@#$% up it was when the exit was closed and I had to find an alternative route, or the map was wrong (very common).

    I also remember how dangerous it was trying to look at the map, fold it, and plan my re-route all while trying to drive. Or the dangers of having to pull off to the side of the highway, then try to merge back in traffic.

    Do you remember when we didn't even have cars. Oh that was a grand time, no oil changes, no breakdowns, no timing belt failures, and no worry of rising gas prices. Man those were the days.

    Let's hate on progess some more and be elitist arrogant pricks. Hoor-ahhh!

  • by PortHaven ( 242123 ) on Sunday March 25, 2012 @08:55AM (#39465451) Homepage

    Well that's moronic. What if you're the passenger. *sheesh*

  • Re:Hyperbole much? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by arth1 ( 260657 ) on Sunday March 25, 2012 @09:00AM (#39465483) Homepage Journal

    Indeed. I refuse to use a GPS where I can't have a map with north up, but instead have to rely on the constantly shifting view made for people who can't read maps nor think further ahead than the next turn, but can only relate to the direction the car is going in right now.
    What's really sad is how such a large part of the population lacks skills that were common. Like estimating distances, giving correct change without a calculator, making a meal from scratch or reading a map. People don't use technologies to make things they know how to do easier, they use them so they won't have to learn something in the first place.

    At my best estimate, this Great Age Of Ignorance became mainstream in the late 80s, early 90s, and has continued since. There used to be a saying that someone was so dumb that they couldn't find their ass without a map, but these days, the average Joe or Jane would look dumbly at the map.

    If you can't read a map but rely on POV views, I don't want you on the roads without special dispensation and training. You have no spatial awareness, and are a danger to others.

  • Re:Bunch of idiots (Score:4, Insightful)

    by circusboy ( 580130 ) on Sunday March 25, 2012 @09:04AM (#39465521)

    It's run by the people you elect on a regular basis. At least in the country where this story is relevant...

  • by kanweg ( 771128 ) on Sunday March 25, 2012 @09:05AM (#39465529)

    Unfortunately most brains aren't good at multitasking. Well, speaking for myself: Mine isn't. The good thing about a navigation system is that I can pay attention to the road and spend very little time worrying about where to go. I need an occasional glance at the screen to resolve an issue (Navigon isn't very good; TomTom is pretty good), other than that it isn't really a distraction. I've to spend less time watching road signs for directions as the information comes in audio form to me. The info also also always repeated, so I can ignore it if it doesn't suit me because of a complicated traffic situation that deserves my immediate attention.


  • Freeze (Score:4, Insightful)

    by markdavis ( 642305 ) on Sunday March 25, 2012 @09:05AM (#39465535)

    While they are at it, perhaps the tachometer and speedometer should be frozen, since they could be distracting. Make the turn signal indicators solid... that blinking can be distracting. Better make sure there is no sweep/seconds hand on any clock.

    And passengers- especially children, those should be frozen too. They are MAJOR moving distractions.

    Oh- they should repaint all the lines on the roads to not have dashes, since those appear to be moving. Mirrors....

  • Re:Bunch of idiots (Score:3, Insightful)

    by kanweg ( 771128 ) on Sunday March 25, 2012 @09:06AM (#39465553)

    Not to mention that you may start watching the screen frequently in anticipation when a new screen is about to appear and you need the info.


  • Re:Bunch of idiots (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anne Thwacks ( 531696 ) on Sunday March 25, 2012 @09:09AM (#39465571)
    government must be run by the lowest common denominator

    That is what democracy means!

  • by Mr. Underbridge ( 666784 ) on Sunday March 25, 2012 @09:11AM (#39465581)


    Fixed that. Some things are just better than other things. Nav systems are one such thing. Further, the best nav systems display the upcoming turn from either the driver's POV or a close-in top-down with forward displayed up. This is helpful when a glance can give indication of where exactly the turn is. This is invaluable particularly with irregular or dense intersetions, where a verbal "turn right in a quarter mile" could yield 20 options.

    I hate driver distraction as much as the next guy, but when one glance down for a quarter second can actually make the driver safer, we'll cope.

    So go be a grumpy old guy about something else, like how Metamucil takes like shit.

  • by Sycraft-fu ( 314770 ) on Sunday March 25, 2012 @09:19AM (#39465633)

    Look at the dearth of numerical LCD gauges in cars. Why is that? We used analogue meters back in the day because, well, that's all we had. However in a modern car, that instrument cluster is part or all digital on the back end. It has to convert the digital signals it gets to the analogue gauges. So why not go for digital LED numbers? Cheaper to produce, and more accurate. You'd know your speed down to the MPH (presuming the unit that reads it is that accurate). In fact there were some cars with them at one point, but they seem to have gone away.

    Well the reason is it is distracting. If you put a big LCD speed readout there it's abrupt changes distract the driver more than the smooth movement of a needle. Quick changes catch the eye, smooth motion not as much.

    Same would hold true for something like this. A smooth updating map that scrolls along with car movement isn't very noticeable. Something suddenly changing draws the attention.

  • by TheRaven64 ( 641858 ) on Sunday March 25, 2012 @09:21AM (#39465659) Journal
    The problem is that it means that people will spend longer looking at the screen. Rather than glancing at it and seeing the layout instantly, they'll have to find the car on the screen, which may mean one or two seconds without their eyes on the road.
  • by geekmux ( 1040042 ) on Sunday March 25, 2012 @09:23AM (#39465665)

    Drivers should focus on the street and the traffic and not being distracted by some ads.

    You bring up a great point actually, especially in the day of the electronic billboard. They're all over the place here, it's like looking at a HUGE TV screen...gee no distraction there...

  • Re:Bunch of idiots (Score:4, Insightful)

    by aslagle ( 441969 ) on Sunday March 25, 2012 @09:25AM (#39465673)
    You think the NHTSA is run by elected officials? The vast bulk of them are bureaucrats who stay on from administration to administration.
  • by MysteriousPreacher ( 702266 ) on Sunday March 25, 2012 @09:29AM (#39465699) Journal

    Very good point. It's an odd example, but kind of applies. In the game Angband (a roguelike), there is an option to keep the map centred on the player. Normally I don't use this, because it slows things down on slower hardware, and the game has my full attention. If however I get teleported somewhere, I do fine myself needing to spend time trying to locate myself, as it's not immediately obvious. It seems silly to place drivers in the situation where they must spend time scanning the map for their car.

    Ideally though maybe it's best that devices are required to blank the map when the car is traveling above a certain speed, relying only on audio prompts. Driving along, slavishly following the visual instructions on screen seems about as safe as the practice of trying to read a conventional map while driving. Look at people walking down the road, looking at their mobile phones. Does anyone not regularly have to get out of the way of these people? this shit is too distracting. The last couple of times I've had near misses as a pedestrian have oddly enough been while people were talking on phones, except of course for fucking cyclists who think that stop signals don't apply to them, and will happily weave through a line of people crossing.

  • by penix1 ( 722987 ) on Sunday March 25, 2012 @09:35AM (#39465727) Homepage

    I always find it amazing that electronic gadgets are a "distraction" yet non-electronic ones are not. You don't see legislation to outlaw paper maps, coffee cups, makeup, food, etc from vehicles. Yet we see state after state as well as the feds weighing in on the rush to make electronic devices illegal or unusable while driving.

    Look, it is all about the revenue these laws and regulations generate from the tickets they issue. It has very little to do with safety. If it had something to do with safety they would stiffen the law that covers distracted driving (reckless driving) more and leave the reason for the reckless driving out of it.

    In my home state of West Virginia this year they just passed a law making use of a cell phone illegal while driving. That isn't the part that shows it is about revenue. The revenue generator is it was made a primary offense with a stiff fine attached to it. Meanwhile that law does very little for any other form of distracted driving.

  • by echusarcana ( 832151 ) on Sunday March 25, 2012 @09:36AM (#39465733)
    GPS systems are a huge distraction. Do you really need a GPS for day-to-day driving? For most people, how often do you really drive somewhere you don't know? No more than a few times a year. And do you really need a GPS in a city you don't know? No. READ THE ROAD SIGNS! CHECK A MAP BEFORE YOU LEAVE! Folks that drive with GPS seem like some of the worst drivers on the road. Why? They are watching the screen and not the road signs. They are missing the obvious visual clues to where they are going.

    GPS laws might not get much traction. Most places it's illegal to drive while on the cell phone but people still do it. Somehow, you put that iPhone in a dash mount and people somehow thing it is now a legal "hands free" device. People need some common sense.
  • Re:Hyperbole much? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by JaredOfEuropa ( 526365 ) on Sunday March 25, 2012 @09:36AM (#39465737) Journal
    For that reason, paper maps are *far* more dangerous to use while driving. No use glancing at them, you need to look at them for a bit to orientate yourself and make sense of them. Yes, you could study the map before you leave, but most people are not really able to memorize the complete route, and it certainly isn't easy to re-route if you miss your turn.

    Our former head of traffic police (in the Netherlands), who is notoriously averse of gadgetry in cars, quoted several studies that navigation systems are by far the safest option for navigating an area that you're not familiar with, winning over memorizing maps, having paper maps in the car, stopping to ask directions, or just winging it. The one thing that is safer is having a co-pilot with either a paper map or a GPS.
  • by fooslacker ( 961470 ) on Sunday March 25, 2012 @09:39AM (#39465757)
    It's even worse than that. When the in car navi stops working the way people are accustomed to they will switch to phone based navigation which will require much more attention and cause many more problems. Rather than constantly trying to put genies back in their bottles government out to be researching ways to make them safer while still being useful. Figure out a way to have them be voice activated and respond to natural language queries so the screens become less important to the experience.

    If you want to change people's behavior give them something that is a qualitatively better experience rather than just trying to restrict what already exists. This will only drive them to (pun intended) to work around the system with unforeseen and in this case dangerous consequences.
  • Re:Also, (Score:5, Insightful)

    by T-Bucket ( 823202 ) on Sunday March 25, 2012 @09:40AM (#39465761) Homepage

    The ones who thought it was a good idea were the bean counters who figured they could save themselves a few bucks by not having two different dashboards for left or right drive cars. But you know, "safety is our first priority... right after money." (Like the airlines!)

  • by SDrag0n ( 532175 ) on Sunday March 25, 2012 @10:06AM (#39465891)
    Generally speaking, I agree with you. On the other hand, I know some people (my wife) who can't navigate anywhere and are constantly turned around. The reality is some people have a good sense of direction and can memorize a map with ease, and some people can't.

    I'd rather have my wife using a GPS then call me frustrated while trying to describe where she is while actually having no idea and just becoming more and more angry.
  • by fermion ( 181285 ) on Sunday March 25, 2012 @10:36AM (#39466033) Homepage Journal
    I would argue that the reason we have analogue displays is that they are easier to comprehend. In my car I can glance at the speed and tach and comprehend the meaning with no reading, or minimal reading. The meaning is purely positional.

    There is technical issue as well. Can a car calculate the speed to miles per hour and if so, is it meaningful? I would argue that a car cannot reliable calculate, on a second by second basis, the speed to such an accuracy and therefore such displays are there purely for entertainment purposes. I would argue that we are seeing an increasing number fo displays that are for entertainment purposes only. For instance, I rented an Altima that displays frequent updates to current fuel usages, which went from 60 mph on the down slope to 10mph on the step positive grades. This was not useful. My car gives me a trip average which potentially allows me to adjust my driving when the average is to low. The gauge on the Altima is entertainment.

    And I think this is what the discussion is about. What part of mapping is useful and what part is visual entertainment, which many agree is not appropriate for the driver. I don't have one of these devices in my car, but from what I have seen driving with my friends is that the device tells you what you need to do, and all the driver needs to do is listen. There is no reason to constantly check the display. Now, I don't want those instructions, so I when I am going to a new place I figure our where I am going beforehand. It seems more dangerous to me to have to look at a map while on the go, and maybe have to make extreme changes in lanes or speed, or fast turns, rather than having the navigation planned in advance. Of course, with the computer telling you the navigation, that is fine. But checking a map to determine the navigation, that just sounds dangerous. You may as well be watching a movie.

  • by egburr ( 141740 ) on Sunday March 25, 2012 @10:39AM (#39466045) Homepage

    There are so many streets out in the area I''m at that either don't have signs or have small, hard-to-find signs (imagine trying to find a sign on a random corner of an intersection of a 4-lane-plus-turn-lanes road and a 2-lane side road, with trees and poor lighting). Often by the time I've found the sign, assuming I even find it at all while making sure I don't hit something, I've gone right through the intersection I was supposed to turn at. I've seen a lot of accidents and close calls caused by people slowing to a crawl coming up on an intersection, presumably trying to find the sign to see what street they've reached, sometimes swerving into the turn lane at the last second. I don't want to be one of those.

    For some reason, the DOT out here doesn't seem to have heard of the concept of putting the signs up on the traffic light cross-poles or even putting up signs on multiple corners of a large intersection.

    I love my GPS just for that.

    It's just an added bonus that I don't have to pull over and pick up the tattered old map to remind myself which tree-named street I want again, and is it the 3rd or 4th turn after the last major intersection that I haven't reached yet, and then is it left-right-right-left or left-right-left-left once I get into the subdivision. It's not because I can't use a map of because I'm lazy, but the GPS is so much easier and a time-saver, that I am able to concentrate more on the driving and not on where I'm trying to go, that I feel it's much safer to use the GPS than to not use it.

  • by lister king of smeg ( 2481612 ) on Sunday March 25, 2012 @10:44AM (#39466073)

    I am wasteing my previous mod points but oh well I do not have a in car navagation system or gps or even smart phone with internet, but you say that people do not need gps nav because most people do not go all that many places that they do not the way to all that often. That may be true for you but if for people like me who go trying out new hiking and camping and fishing places way out in the middle of nowhere on back roads a nav system would be a God send. I hate trying to read a map while driving and no reading it before hand is not always enough. If I am driving clear across Washington state to go fishing with freinds just glancing at a map before leaving is not enough. Just because you do not have a use for it does not mean others do not have a use for it.

  • by Leebert ( 1694 ) * on Sunday March 25, 2012 @11:01AM (#39466167)

    It should be illegal for any screen of any type to be visible to the driver of the vehicle.

    What's the difference between a screen displaying operational data (like navigation) or any of the various gauges that you use to operate the vehicle?

    For instance, I find myself very distracted by constantly looking down to my speedometer when going through some of the areas around my home where the local police will nail you for 35 in a 25. I'm so (necessarily) fixated on the speedometer, I can't actually *drive*.

    GPS devices are FAR safer than the alternatives. I don't know if you remember what the world was like pre-GPS, but it wasn't at all uncommon to have a map unfolded on a seat next to you that you consult from time to time when navigating through unfamiliar territory. A quick glance at a GPS which shows me a 3D representation of the route I need to take hands-down beats several seconds of scanning a map to figure out where I am and where I need to be.

  • by jpapon ( 1877296 ) on Sunday March 25, 2012 @11:13AM (#39466243) Journal
    It is definitely, certainly, and without a doubt 100% the role of government to keep the roads safe. That is not an intrusion into your private life.

    Now whether or not these laws actually DO make the roads safer is something else... but get out of here with your ultra-libertarian nonsense.

    is the presumption that it is the job of nanny/father government to take care of every little thing in life

    It is NOT a presumption to expect the government to protect me from reckless drivers.

  • Re:Screen (Score:5, Insightful)

    by icebraining ( 1313345 ) on Sunday March 25, 2012 @11:48AM (#39466431) Homepage

    If you want to eliminate distractions, make handheld cellphones inoperable while moving.

    As a bus and train passenger, I thank you for that suggestion. Not only will I be unable to use a cellphone even if I'm not endangering anyone, as I'll have to waste all my battery to keep the GPS always-on, in order to ensure that restriction.

  • by icebraining ( 1313345 ) on Sunday March 25, 2012 @11:52AM (#39466465) Homepage

    So because it's not 100% effective, it's useless? What a ridiculous position.

  • by ScrewMaster ( 602015 ) on Sunday March 25, 2012 @01:43PM (#39467351)

    Or people will just move back to using portable devices instead of ones that are part of the car.

    I pipe the audio output of my smartphone through my car's speakers. I also use it to listen to music on occasion: the music is automatically paused while the GPS is talking so there is no confusion. As it happens, I normally use Google Nav, and the voice works well enough that I rarely need the display. So well, in fact, that I usually just leave the phone in my pocket. If you do need to constantly look at the screen, it probably means your navigation system is poorly designed, or perhaps you are just a very insecure person. My girlfriend has dedicated GPS from Magellan, and it's turn-by-turn likewise works very well (somewhat better than Google's system in many cases.)

    I agree with some other posters: get the units with low-quality software off the market. The government would do better mandating improved functionality rather than imposing arbitrary (and fundamentally dangerous) restrictions, restrictions which serve only to demonstrate how out-of-touch that particular bureaucracy is with this technology.

    So, I think the NHTSA is a barking up the wrong tree. Mandate GPS use training in driver education and be done with it. Penalizing the bulk of the population that has no problem using GPS successfully for the misdeeds of the few is just bad lawmaking. It will, however, be profitable for the locales that implement such regulation, so I have no doubt that many will.

Nondeterminism means never having to say you are wrong.