Feds eye elimination of dynamic GPS maps

Posted by Shane McGlaun

I can certainly understand the call from Washington and state governments to eliminate distracted driving as much as possible.

The problem I have is that state officials seem to think only technology causes drivers to be distracted when that clearly isn't the case. Drivers I see on a daily basis seem quite distracted already from drinks, magazines and pasengers - rather than dynamic GPS maps.

Of course, The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is also attempting to eliminate distractions caused by texting and driving, while numerous states already have laws on the books that ban texting and driving. Many areas also ban talking on the phone while driving without using a hands-free device.

Yet, the NHTSA and other advocacy groups want to go so far as to ban the use of hands-free devices for phone calls while driving as well.

The latest car technology targeted by the NHTSA for elimination is moving maps that are common to just about any GPS device on the market. We're all familiar with this type of moving map that shows a vehicle as a dot or arrow on the screen and allows you to see at a glance where you are in relation to your next intersection or town. These maps are continually updated using GPS signals and often go along with spoken driving directions by the GPS device.

The NHTSA says it is recommending that manufacturers of GPS devices and vehicles with integrated navigation systems move to quasi-static maps or static maps. A quasi-static map is defined as one that updates as often as every few seconds. That makes no sense at all to me, as you'll constantly be glancing down, waiting for yet another update.

The NHTSA is also recommending that manufacturers of navigation devices stop using automatically scrolling text. Instead, it recommends the presentation of limited amounts of static or quasi-static text. Scrolling text is common on many smart phones and GPS devices to tell you what road you are on and what your next intersection is. I'm somewhat relieved that these are only recommendations (so far), and the government isn't trying to mandate scrolling text in moving maps out of vehicles. I simply don't think there's anything to be done to combat distracted driving short of forcing everyone in the country to buy completely automated vehicles. What do you think?