Setting our focus on distracted driving
If you’re one of the vast majority of Americans who commutes in a car, either alone or in a carpool, you’ve undoubtedly noticed distracted driving. With enough practice, or simply time on the road, the signs of distracted drivers become easy to spot. Maybe it’s a slow fade into another lane before a sudden jerk back. Or it can be eyes in the rearview mirror of the car ahead of you, caught in a cycle of looking down at a device, then up at the road and repeat.
Whatever the signs, one thing is certain: Distracted driving is dangerous – and pervasive. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 3,166 deaths occurred in 2017 as a result of distracted driving.
Defining distraction – and addressing it
When it comes to crashes, driver behavior is far and away the biggest cause. In fact, according to the NHTSA, 94% of all crashes can be attributable to driver behavior. This includes distracted driving. There are three major types of distracted driving. A visual distraction is when you take your eyes off the road, a manual distraction is when you take your hands off the wheel and a cognitive distraction is when you take your mind off driving. As smartphones have become a larger part of our everyday lives, various wireless technologies have been added to vehicles in an effort to mitigate these distractions.
Bluetooth, for instance, is nearly standard in today’s vehicles. In fact, 86 percent of new vehicles now come equipped with the technology. This means today’s average user now has readily available hands-free access to calling and streaming while driving, yet over a million automobile crashes are still caused by hand-held cell phone usage each year. This presents us with a disconnect between the widespread availability of hands-free technology and drivers’ decision to not use it.
This dichotomy becomes even more confusing when we consider how drivers often face punitive measures if they are caught hand-operating a cell phone while driving. For example, many US municipalities ticket drivers who use their devices while operating their vehicle. Added to this, 17 states (as well as Washington, DC) have passed laws requiring the use of hands-free technology while driving. Seven other states impose some level of restriction.
Is hands-free too hands-on?
If drivers are incentivized to keep their hands off their phone by new laws, how can the lack of wireless use be explained? One barrier to adoption of hands-free technology might be attributable to the challenge of repeatedly pairing their devices with the vehicle. Take, for example, a family with multiple vehicles. One member of the family might go through the process of pairing their phone to one vehicle but, because the process varies from vehicle to vehicle, they might fail to do so for the other vehicles they drive.
Furthermore, car owners may cycle through the ownership of many phones throughout the lifetime of a single vehicle. If the process of syncing a phone to their vehicle is overly complicated, they may forget the multi-step process for connecting devices and fail to link their new phone.
Because of a lack of standardization, each time the user gets a new phone or enters a new vehicle, the pairing process may be subtly different due to variations in the user interface and security checks. Many drivers may begin to feel that the tedium of repeatedly pairing a phone outweighs the benefits. Other individuals may wind up driving several rental cars while on business trips or while their primary vehicle is in the shop for repairs.
Results of the Initial Quality Study (IQS) by JD Powers point out these challenges. The results show that Bluetooth connectivity and pairing has been the number two problem with new vehicles consistently since 2013. Overall, the study finds users feel Bluetooth is an unsatisfactory experience: they rank Bluetooth connectivity problems second only to voice recognition and gripes about Bluetooth connectivity are more than double the next complaint.
One of the ways to improve the adoption rate of Bluetooth in the automotive market is to reduce the amount of friction. By focusing on a user experience that eliminates the barriers to utilizing the technology, we believe we can increase usage – but this must be done in a way that does not compromise user security or privacy.
These were all considerations we put into designing Panasonic Automotive’s Friction Free Connectivity. This technology streamlines smartphone-to-vehicle connectivity by leveraging cloud infrastructure and a handset service. By making it easier for drivers to use of the hands-free technology already present in vehicles today, we believe this we can reduce instances of distracted driving.
Importantly, the Friction Free Connectivity solution achieves this without compromising the security of the process and provides safeguards to ensure that user data stays confidential, and away from unauthorized third parties. This application for Friction Free Connectivity resolves a known Bluetooth security issue and increases the security of the device pairing. The solution achieves this through its ability to cryptographically trust both the user and the vehicle and prevents the chance of connecting to the wrong vehicle. It leverages modern cryptographic standards for private data communication and makes it very difficult for someone to hijack the connection.
To improve the experience of pairing a device to a vehicle, the user is presented with an application on their smart phone. The user then registers with the service and verifies rights to the vehicle. Following device registration, the user’s handset gathers the required connectivity information from a cloud-server. Finally, using the downloaded information, the handset establishes a connection to the vehicle.
In the vehicle, the required user interfaces are eliminated, freeing the designers to provide users with only the most important decisions as needed for a more seamless experience. Furthermore, because it leverages existing technology common in many vehicles today, we can accomplish this with no additional hardware in the vehicle or the phones.
Utilizing this Wi-Fi connection makes possible a new level of quality, in-car infotainment. Once the user and handset can create a trusted relationship over Wi-Fi, that connection can be leveraged to enable streaming video content for passengers. Users can bring their own video streaming service to the cabin of their autonomous vehicle.
Present and future
What’s more, ride-share operators can offer streaming through to users with their application as well. The Wi-Fi connection can deliver high fidelity and high bitrate audio to multi-channel surround sound high-end audio systems such as the ELS 3D Sound System. This increased quality of infotainment promises to help auto makers differentiate the experience they offer to buyers.
By 2025, 10 disruptive technologies are expected to generate trillions of dollars of economic impact. Recent research from Panasonic reveals that Connected World industries – aviation, automotive, and government agencies involved in transportation infrastructure – have already adopted five of these technologies on average. These include cloud, mobile devices and IoT – key technologies behind the Friction Free Connectivity solution.
Panasonic is deeply engaged in these and other disruptive technologies. We believe that connecting them into integrated solutions is essential to creating entirely new experiences. And as we have for a century, we do this for a single purpose, to make life more fulfilling and the world a more enjoyable and sustainable place. To learn more about the ways Panasonic is leveraging disruptive technologies, read “Why Low-speed EVs matter today.”