Google and Apple make it OK to have phones in cars

Ever since the invention of cellphones with texting, Internet and streaming capabilities, a serious issue has been drivers distracted by phones. 

According to the U.S. Department of Transportation’s website, about 421,000 people in 2012 were injured in motor vehicle crashes involving a distracted driver. Countless activist groups are working to prohibit cellphone use behind the wheel, and texting while driving is illegal in Florida.

Considering this, it may be surprising to learn that both Google and Apple have developed systems that allow drivers to integrate their phones with car dashboard screens. As stated in a recent New York Times article, Google’s Android Auto and Apple’s CarPlay will be featured within weeks and months in new cars sold at dealerships.

Despite the fear that bringing cars and phones closer together would make driving on U.S. roads even more dangerous, each product seems to have been designed with automobile safety in mind, and these systems should be seen as a potential solution to cellphones causing distracted driving.

Google’s Android Auto, for instance, is essentially a limited Android operating system that optimizes app features to minimize distractions while driving. 

According to the NY Times article, tasks that can be performed using Android Auto take less than two seconds, as recommended by the U.S. Transportation Department’s voluntary guidelines on limiting distraction, and some features such as streaming videos and social media are removed completely. 

Text messages can only be sent using voice commands, and apps used for music and navigation are meant to be used only during glances between driving. 

This would provide for a much safer method of performing common driving tasks, as directly using a cellphone for navigating, looking through a music playlist and making a phone call or sending a text message require too much time and focus to do safely while driving.

The invention of these systems is also important for reducing distracted driving since people in their 20s, which includes many college-aged drivers, make up the largest age group in cellphone related accidents, as well as that for people who own cellphones, according to a 2012 National Highway Traffic Safety Administration study and a 2014 Pew Research Center study, respectively. 

Providing those who use cellphones the most with a way to use them safely while driving is simply common sense when it comes to curtailing distracted driving.

Of course, one could argue that simply abstaining from phones while driving would be a much safer alternative to using phone dashboards. However, the likelihood of many drivers refraining from using their phones is slim. lists that at any given daylight moment, about 660,000 drivers across the U.S. are using cellphones or electronic devices while driving, a figure that has remained steady since 2010. 

Improving the safety of driving while operating a phone may be a more productive option than completely banning the use of phones behind the wheel, an option that two of the country’s most recognizable names in technology and two dozen car brands have already invested in.

Russell Nay is a freshman majoring in mass communications.