The NTSB Recommended In-Vehicle Cell Phone Use Ban - Technology Can Solve the Problem

Most responses to the NTSB's recommended Nation-wide ban on in vehicle cell phone use fails to do one important thing - address the root cause of the problem.

The better thing do to instead of banning them in a motor vehicle, is to insure that they function appropriately in that motor vehicle, while the engine is on and the vehicle is moving.

We could require, for instance, that a driver's smartphone disables all all non-navigational data transmissions (so the phone can't text, surf, etc.) while the motor vehicle is moving. This could be easily done with a Bluetooth profile. The OS could simply disable all non-navigational data transmissions when the GPS receiver determines that the phone is traveling at a sustained speed faster than say, 15 miles per hour.

The Bluetooth profile would need to distinguish between a Bluetooth headset and a car kit. Most profiles don't do this today, so some updates would be needed. But this should be easy to implement given that most smartphones support OTA (Over the Air) updates and that GPS hardware is already in most of them (and perhaps some high end feature phones, as well).

Apart from addressing the real cause of the problem, it's a job saver and creator to boot (engineers, programmers, designers), and we wouldn't have to recall and disable the existing hands free features in most Ford and other vendor's automobiles.

The NTSB, cell carriers, and mobile device makers, need to work together and think out of the box to make this happen. Banning is extreme. Doctors wouldn't want to amputate a person's leg simply because a patient developed an infected toe.

The real issue here is distracted driving, not mobile device use by a driver. Would the NTSB also consider banning radios or music players, because they're a "distraction?" Applying makeup? Eating and drinking?

The NTSB should not single out this individual, potential cause of distracted driving if they are not going to also recommend a ban on anything and everything that causes driver distraction, including drinking a bottle of water, changing radio stations and even—make that especially—having children in the car. This recommendation was merely low-hanging fruit, politically volatile and an easy attention and headline grabber. Not a solution.

Based in Chicago, Chris is founding, manging editor at BYTE and a senior IT consultant for a prominant Chicago-based consulting firm. Over the past 15 years, Chris has helped start three successful internet properties, including CMPnet's File Mine back in 1997. He had a column in AOL/CompuServe's Computing Pro Forum for nearly 10 years; and has written for a suburban Chicago, SunTimes Media publication. You can follow Chris on Twitter at @chrisspera and email him at [email protected].