The top U.S. transportation safety investigator criticized companies such as Intel Corp. that are investing in in-car information technology, saying they’re slowing efforts to reduce hazards from distracted driving.
“If the technology producers focused more on what is safe, than what sells, we’d see highway fatalities go down,” National Transportation Safety Board Chairman Deborah Hersman said as she convened a distracted-driving forum in Washington.
Distracted driving caused by handheld and other electronics in cars has been the top safety priority of Ray LaHood since he became U.S. transportation secretary in 2009.
Hersman, whose board operates independently, in December went further than LaHood, calling for a ban on all phone use while driving, even with hands-free devices.
“We have got to dispel the myth of multitasking,” Hersman said at the forum. “We are still learning what the human brain can handle. What is the price of our desire to be mobile and connected at the same time?”
Intel, the world’s largest maker of semiconductors and computer chips, said last month it is expanding development of in-vehicle infotainment using its technology and its capital unit is creating a $100 million “connected car fund.”
John Lee, a University of Wisconsin professor who has studied distracted driving, cited the Intel announcement at the forum as an example of companies focusing on adding technology to cars.
“The pace of change is daunting,” he said in testimony to the safety board, citing himself as an example of a distracted driver who has scrolled through a music playlist and taken his eyes off the road. “The pace of change far outstrips the pace of regulatory response.”