Transportation Dept. Wants Power to Regulate Car Navigation Apps

Image: Transportation Dept. Wants Power to Regulate Car Navigation Apps

Monday, 16 Jun 2014 06:47 AM

By Elliot Jager

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The U.S. Transportation Department is asking the Congress for formal authorization to control the use of smartphone navigation apps, The New York Times reported.

Apps like Waze and Google Maps are cheaper than built-in navigation systems but may run up against rules prohibiting the use of mobile phones while driving. Car manufacturers support the bill while technology companies such as Google Inc. and Apple Inc. have not taken a public stance.

Waze is premised on users sharing travel updates with other "Wazers." The app allows passengers to send updates but blocks the driver from doing so. A work-around is for drivers to identify themselves as passengers.

Navigation apps are not basically dangerous, Harold Feld, senior vice president of the digital rights advocacy group Public Knowledge, told the Times because they can be operated by voice command or by passengers.

There are already local laws against texting or speaking on a cell phone while driving.

Regulations guiding the use of smartphones as navigation ads are less clear-cut. Proposed legislation would empower the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to determine whether navigation apps are distracting to drivers and set restrictions.

Authorities say that they can prohibit navigation aids under existing regulations but want the power made more explicit.

California motorist Steven Spriggs recently won an appeal after being ticketed for using his smartphone as a navigation aid in stop-and-go traffic, according to the Times. Local law prohibits speaking on the phone and the traffic police officer told Spriggs the same rule applies to navigating.

After a driver distracted by using a cell phone struck his 22-year-old son who was on his bicycle, Spriggs told the newspaper he would "reluctantly" have to agree that phones should not be used while cars are moving.

Experts say that a navigation system that distracts a driver for more than two seconds at a time is dangerous because at 60 miles an hour, two seconds translates into 176 feet of motion.

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