"If you don't provide something that is useful, people will just use their smartphones, and we all know that's the biggest driver distraction there is," Audi spokesman Mark Dahncke told Reuters. That said, automakers make a lot of money every time someone ticks an option box for a $2,000 navigation/infotainment system, so we shouldn't expect automakers to go along with what safety advocates like Joe Simitian say.
"I think they [the screens] raise serious public safety questions," Simitian, a former legislator who led California's push to ban cell phones while driving, told Reuters. That point of view is supported by at least one academic.
"You can't be looking at a screen and be looking at the road at the same time," said David Strayer, a professor of cognition and neural science at the University of Utah. These screens "are enabling activities that take your eyes off the road for longer than most safety advocates would say is safe."
As for actually regulating in-dash information, voluntary government standards aren't generally observed by the industry. According to Reuters, automaker standards say drivers should be able to complete tasks through a series of two-second glances, totaling no more than 20 seconds, while Uncle Sam's own voluntary rules say tasks should be completed using 1.5-to two-second glances for a total of 12 seconds. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, meanwhile, says it should take no more than six button presses to complete tasks. In short, there simply isn't a dedicated set of rules that have been agreed upon by all parties involved. And until that happens, it seems likely that distracted driving will continue to be an issue.