With companies like Tesla and Ford replacing tactile, in-dash systems with touchscreens and gizmos, the National Highway and Transportation Safety Administration wants to set "distraction guidelines" for how automakers implement factory-installed in-car electronics. Nearly a year after discussing the possibility of bringing restrictions to in-car information, US Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood unveiled phase one of a (potential) three-part, "first-ever federal proposal" loaded with suggestions for keeping driver's eyes and attention on the road. Notably, these voluntary guidelines take aim at "communications, entertainment, information gathering and navigation devices or functions that are not required to safely operate the vehicle." According to Reuters, though, the Alliance of Auto Manufacturers claims that "elements" of the guidelines have been in practice for nearly ten years.
The ideas range from ensuring that one hand is always left free for steering and restricting the entry of text, such as an address, unless the your car is in park, to limiting in-dash text prompts to "no more than 30 characters of text unrelated to the driving task" so that your eyes can't wander off of the road for too long. Passengers, of course, would be free to do whatever they wish. Vehicles under 10,000 pounds are said to be the primary focus, with the NHTSA noting that electronic warning systems will not be on the radar as they intend to help drivers, well, drive. Before the proposal spins into action, beginning in March it will be up for public comment for 60 days L.A., Washington D.C. and Chicago. Depending on how the phase one guidelines pan out, phase two will focus on devices brought into vehicles, like cellphones, while phase three would set its sights on voice controls. If you're curious about all of the specifics, you'll find more info in the press release after the break and the full proposal draft at the source link below.