Transportation Secretary Expects To Use Technology To Block All Mobile Phone Usage In Cars [Updated]

from the unintended-consequences... dept

We've noted in the past that Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood has long been an advocate of wider bans on various technologies in cars. Just last month he said he hoped to have a complete ban on talking to any kind of device in your car, including mobile phones, telematics systems like OnStar, and GPS systems. His latest argument (as sent in by quite a few of you) is to suggest that perhaps the US government will mandate technology that blocks a mobile phone from working while the car is moving. We've talked about this technology before (though I'm having trouble finding earlier posts on it). It would simply recognize if the phone is moving at a certain rate of speed and then block the phone from being used. LaHood seems to like the idea:
"There's a lot of technology out there now that can disable phones and we're looking at that," said LaHood on MSNBC.... "I think it will be done," said LaHood. "I think the technology is there and I think you're going to see the technology become adaptable in automobiles to disable these cell phones. We need to do a lot more if were going to save lives."
Of course, it's unclear why passengers shouldn't be able to use mobile phones while in a car (or bus or train) as well. There are also different ways that this can work, whether with scramblers or with software installed on the phone but, in either case, you could see it banning phone calls in perfectly safe situations (on a train or a bus?). Once again, this seems like overkill. Furthermore, it will almost certainly have unintended consequences. We've already pointed to some recent research that showed that driving-while-texting bans increased accidents, as drivers kept on texting, but hid their phones lower, taking their eyes even further off the road.

No one denies that distracted driving is quite dangerous. But we shouldn't be rushing into simply banning stuff or mandating blocks without thinking through the actual implications of that.

Update: LaHood is now claiming that his remarks were misrepresented. However, it's not clear that's the case. He restates the first part of what he said on MSNBC and doesn't say anything about the second part -- when he was pushed on whether or not the tech would become mandated, and he said "I think it will be done." In his response, he seems to ignore that part of what he said...

Filed Under: distracted driving, driving, ray lahood, technology


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  1. identicon
    DogBreath, 18 Nov 2010 @ 12:34pm

    Another politician overstepping his authority

    Why am I not surprised. It's nipped in the bud by a pesky FCC rule... for now.

    After raising the idea, Department of Transportation says it’s not interested in cell phone jamming technology in cars

    In early 2009, the Washington D.C. Department of Corrections petitioned the FCC to experiment with phone jamming technology. Prison officials had contended that they need the technology to prevent inmates from using contraband cell phones to plan breakouts. After first permitting the jamming technology, the FCC backed away. Later that year, legislation introduced by Texas Republican Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison to allow phone jamming in prisons was referred to a subcommittee.

    The FCC stepped back because while it recognized the issues prison officials faced, tech blog Ars Technica noted that “rules are rules, and Section 333 of the Communications Act specifically forbids any ‘willful or malicious interference’ with licensed radio signal.”


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