Electronic Design

More Silicon Will Help Drivers Ring The Bells And Blow The Whistles...Safely

BMW believes in responsible driving through minimal driver distraction. You can design a car using the latest technology, as we do, with excellent handling, braking, and ergonomics features ensuring that the driver can safely tap this awesome capability. But ultimately, the driver is fundamentally responsible for "safe" vehicle operation.

Personal electronics, such as cell phones, personal digital assistants (PDAs), MP3 players, and even laptop computers, are increasingly being brought into the vehicle. BMW advocates responsible usage of all personal electronics devices in the vehicle, as well as the sophisticated electronics embedded within the car.

Cell phones can indeed be dangerous, not only as we push the buttons of these portable devices while holding the steering wheel with our knees, but also as we concentrate on the conversation and mentally prepare our response. The task of driving often requires 100% of our attention.

During other periods, like long, boring drives between cities on the interstate, we may be able to perform multiple tasks if the device is appropriately configured for in-vehicle use—that is, both hands are free and voice-controlled operation is possible. We can expect this to happen when "Bluetooth-hot" interfaces sync these "toys" to the vehicle's infrastructure. But it's the responsibility of the driver to appropriately decide when, where, and how these capabilities should be accessed, and what the driver's per-sonal lifestyle should be while driving.

If we accept and use this responsibility sensibly, automakers and drivers can jointly take advantage of the incredible advances in personal electronics. If we do not, our government will mandate restricted functionality.

For its part, BMW will continuously seek to improve its human-machine interfaces. Voice and intuitive tactile controls, for example, are already in place. Several of our other systems in the vehicle, such as antilock braking (ABS), dynamic stability control (DSC), active cruise control (ACC), and our airbag deployment sensor modules, might also provide valuable input into determining when and where advanced electronic functions should be accessible while driving.

ACC uses radar or other sensors to determine the distance a car is being driven from vehicles ahead of it, and automatically adjusts the throttle or brakes to maintain a safe distance. If the ACC sensors detect high traffic volume or the DSC is activated (to control a skid), a telephone call could be automatically placed on hold or routed to voice mail, or a navigation system could have access restricted.

If the airbag and other sensors indicate that the passenger is accessing these devices, however, these activities could continue. The integration of such capabilities needs to be carefully evaluated before it's used. Clearly, the vehicles themselves will increasingly advise the driver when it's safe to perform a function. We should leave vehicle control in the driver's hands.

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