The Freedom to Drive without Distraction

My best friend and me at 16 years old with my 1993 BMW 325i.

My best friend and me at 16 years old with my 1993 BMW 325i.

When I got my license in 1999, I had a cellphone that resided mostly in the glove box. Actually, it was my mom’s cellphone. She would give it to me when I’d go out with my friends for those instances when I may need to call to let her know I would be home a few minutes late, to ask permission to go somewhere unplanned, or in case of an emergency. Parents give their teens cellphones largely for the same main purpose today; it’s an immediate way to connect with our children should they need us. (Of course, that’s only a fraction of the reason teens want a smartphone.)

What we could not have anticipated when the first flip phones made their way into Americans’ hands were the vast possibilities of connectivity that would shortly follow. Our phones quickly went from mobile versions of that thing attached to the kitchen wall to miniature PC’s in our palms.

Technology has changed the way we operate behind the wheel.

VW Passat Apple CarPlay - ConnectThe transformation of how we stay in touch has happened so quickly that federal and state laws cannot keep up. Such a rapid change has led to drivers developing unsafe habits behind the wheel before truly recognizing they were being so unsafe. And according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), it has resulted in hundreds of thousands of injuries and thousands of deaths due to distraction.

So what are companies doing to help consumers curb these bad habits? They’re packing their products with safety technologies to help reduce distraction when behind the wheel. Everything from mobile apps to infotainment systems to semi-autonomous features are being put to use to combat this deadly epidemic.

8 Technologies Helping Us Drive without Distraction:

    1) Voice-activated commands – Thanks to the proliferation of Bluetooth technology in virtually every new car, whether entry-level or ultimate luxury, we can now easily make handsfree phone calls. Another way voice activation has been helpful is in interacting with your vehicle’s infotainment system, whether asking for directions to a new destination or tuning to your favorite radio station.

    2) Seamless smartphone connectivity – While Bluetooth provides a wireless phone connection, Apple and Google take it to the next level with their Apple CarPlay and Android Auto interfaces that provide a seamless user experience for users that is safe inside the automobile environment, which means making adjustments such as showing large icons and limiting the number of steps it takes to complete an action.

    3) Blind Spot Monitoring – Nothing beats craning your neck to check your physical blind spots, but sometimes a turn of the head doesn’t get the full job done. That’s where Blind Spot Monitoring technology comes in – warning you with a flashing light, icon on your mirror or a beep – of a vehicle hidden from your view. This can be particularly helpful when moving to change lanes.

    4) Lane Departure Warning and Lane Keep Assist – Ever get a little drowsy and drift out of your lane during a long road trip? It happens to all of us at some point. Using sensors built into your car, Lane Departure Warning will let you know that you’re “coloring outside the lines”. Some vehicles, however, will even mitigate the incidence through Lane Keeping technology that automatically steers the car gently back on course.

    5) Head-up Display – A great way to keep your eyes on the stretch of blacktop in front of you is through a head-up display, which basically is a series of images projected onto the inside of the windshield in front of the driver. This is a feature that is still reserved for higher-end vehicles, but it does help to provide navigation instructions, local speed limits, warning icons and other helpful information right in the driver’s line of sight.

    Autoliv Night Vision CT6 cluster6) Nightvision technology – Probably one of the coolest new features we’ve seen, infrared technology can (quite literally) shine a light on a pedestrian or animal, such as a deer, up to 100 meters in front of a vehicle. Some nightvision tech can actually decipher if it’s a person or an animal in your path. This kind of in-car tech is certainly found only on luxury vehicles now, but it is on these expensive cars that such valuable advances in safety technology can be proven and then, as costs come down on those technologies, can be introduced on more affordable vehicles.

    7) Backup camera mandate – By the 2018 model year, the NHTSA has required auto manufacturers to include a rearview backup camera in all vehicles weighing less than 10,000 pounds. This mandate was brought on by tragic accidents of not being able to see out the far rear corners of a vehicle, and it has resulted in widespread dissemination of a very helpful technology that not only saves lives but also helps with parallel parking.

    8) Aftermarket solutions – If your vehicle is not equipped with features like these, there are now opportunities to purchase stand-alone products that can provide many of these safe driving benefits. For instance, don’t have Bluetooth in your car? hum by Verizon solves that — it is an affordable device that not only provides a Bluetooth speaker synced with your mobile phone, but also makes your vehicle smarter and more connected in many other ways. There’s a mobile app, too, that provides key diagnostics about your car, vehicle location services, and even speed and geo-fencing alerts.

These are just a few of the ways automakers, telecomm and technology companies are working together to ensure the safety of Americans everywhere, whether behind the driver’s wheel or in front of a moving vehicle. Needless to say, our cars are becoming more complex each and every day. They’re also becoming much smarter. But in the end, it’s still up to us drivers to take driving seriously, stay focused and be responsible behind the wheel.

What other safety technologies do you find useful in your everyday life? Share your thoughts with me via Twitter or your other social networks by mentioning @BeCarChic and tagging us with #humBCC!

Disclaimer: This post is one of several articles part of a paid partnership with hum by Verizon. Our partnership focuses on driver safety, broadening the general awareness of Verizon’s hum product, and at times, will feature Verizon subject matter experts. Those articles will be denoted with an author by-line and this disclosure statement. Social media posts promoting the published articles in this series will be accompanied by the #humBCC and #sponsored hashtags.

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Melanie Batenchuk founded Be Car Chic in 2009 as a way to help consumers make smart decisions when buying and selling their cars. Her prior work at the dealership, trade association and manufacturer levels has provided her a deep understanding of the complex facets within the auto industry, making her a leading woman in her field.