Strategies for Reducing Driver Distraction from In-Vehicle Telematics Devices

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Report on Industry and Public Consultations

Prepared by:
Transport Canada
Motor Vehicle Safety Directorate

September 2005
TP 14409 E

How to get the full report 

Executive Summary

"In-Vehicle Telematics" refers to devices incorporating wireless communications technologies to provide information services, vehicle automation and other functions to drivers. Transport Canada is concerned that in-vehicle telematics devices are a threat to road safety because they can increase driver distraction and cause an increase in distraction-related crashes. This concern is based on a substantial and mounting body of evidence indicating that using these devices impairs driving performance.

While cellular telephones are currently the most common type of telematics devices used in vehicles, other technologies and applications, such as navigation, adaptive cruise control and Internet access, are increasingly entering the market. It is expected that these devices will become standard features in vehicles in the near future. While provincial and territorial governments are responsible for regulations pertaining to the safe operation of vehicles, including the use of aftermarket equipment, many telematics devices will be offered as original vehicle equipment and, as such, potentially be subject to the federally administered Canadian Motor Vehicle Safety Act.

The issue has warranted urgent and close scrutiny, as many telematics devices are in intensive development. In the spring/summer of  2003, Transport Canada engaged vehicle manufacturers, industry associations, the provinces and territories and the general public in consultations that explored the issue and the potential response/role of the federal government. All parties agreed that driver distraction from these devices was an issue; however, they also agreed that it is inappropriate to regulate products themselves, as there are currently no established test procedures or safety criteria. Public awareness and education campaigns regarding distracted driving were strongly supported by all, and most were in agreement that a non-regulatory approach to limit driver distraction caused by in-vehicle telematics by Transport Canada should also be initiated.

The government of Canada's "Smart Regulation" initiative is intended to modernize the regulatory system while supporting innovation and economic growth. By promoting the use of innovative consultative mechanisms and alternative regulatory instruments, Smart Regulation attempts to maximize the benefits of regulation in a manner that reflects the pace at which new knowledge develops, consumer needs evolve and business now operates.

With that in mind, Transport Canada is currently negotiating an agreement known as a memorandum of understanding ( MOU ) with automotive manufacturers, which would deal with the safety of in-vehicle telematics devices. The two main elements of this agreement would be commitments by industry to a) incorporate a safety design and development process, and b) adhere to industry-developed performance guidelines, in telematics' device design and development. The recommended safety design and development process would outline general human factors principles and process elements that a company should follow to ensure that driver performance is considered during product design, development and testing. The performance guidelines would specify quantifiable criteria regarding physical device design, location, and performance. The MOU would address safety concerns, be adaptive to continued technological advancement, and not burden the industry unnecessarily.

This document summarizes results from the consultations and describes the initiatives underway at Transport Canada to address driver distraction from in-vehicle telematics devices.



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