The latest governmental reports show that a new transportation bill – that goes by the name of The GROW AMERICA Act – will allow the The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to impose restrictions to automobile navigation apps and devices.
We are talking about both built – in navigation systems and also smartphone apps. As you can imagine, this new bill may give a powerful blow in the gut to a lot of big and small tech companies.
While talking on the phone or texting while driving is banned in the vast majority of the American states, just as it is in many other countries around the world, the regulation of apps and navigation software is still unclear.
But how would people drive around nowadays without their Google Maps or Apple apps or other navigation apps? Well, they could buy more expensive cars that feature all sorts of built – in driving aiding systems, but not everybody can afford the latest smart car model. But the Government is set to impose such restrictions and save some American lives along the way.
The department [of Transportation] is intensifying its battle against distracted driving by seeking explicit authority from Congress to regulate navigation aids of all types, including apps on smartphones. The measure, included in the Obama administration’s proposed transportation bill, would specify that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has the authority to set restrictions on the apps and later order changes if they are deemed dangerous, much the way it currently regulates mechanical features of cars.
The first ones to jump to this opportunity were, of course, the car manufacturers, who seem more than compliant with these regulations. The ones shouting about these forthcoming restrictions to automobile navigation apps and devices are the tech companies producing the apps. They consider these measures as impossible to enforce on hundreds of millions of people and very impractical.
It is hard to understand the legal, social and financial implications of this story, just as it is hard to keep a neutral, objective position. It takes a split second to lose somebody in a car crash due to a split second of smartphone distraction. Does it matter if that distraction was caused by a chatting app or a map telling the driver where to go?
Are these new laws going to bury those app makers who created navigational apps so that they can keep drivers safer? These are all hard questions with even harder answers. We will all have to wait and see how this story unfolds. It is true that the NHTSA already has the right to impose restrictions to automobile navigation apps and devices, but how will these restrictions manifest themselves in real life?