Many drivers have chosen to get extensive directions on the road from the likes of Google Maps, Bing Maps, HERE Maps and Apple Maps, instead of using the expensive navigational aids included in several cars. These free apps are also in a bit of a pickle since driving and using a smartphone or tablet is banned in several states in the U.S.
The Transportation Department is planning to step in and make a difference, though it is not certain if the plan has any chance of taking off. The plan here is to battle distracted driving by seeking congress' permission to regulate driving navigational aids of all types, even the ones that are used on smartphones and tablets.
A new piece of the Obama administration proposes a transportation bill that is aimed at granting the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration the ability to set certain restrictions on navigational apps, and later order changes if they are deemed dangerous.
Several technology companies and developers are complaining about this measure, as they believe it would bog down innovation. However, officials claim that they have no intention to interfere with apps in development. The bill would simply give them the ability to mandate changes if an app should prove dangerous for use on the roads.
So far, the new measures have the support of automakers who believe that since their own built-in navigation solution must face voluntary guidelines, apps such as Google Maps and Apple Maps must face the same treatment.
However, how is it going to work if the Transport Department lacks the resources to handle both Silicon Valley and the auto industry?
"They don't have enough software engineers," said Catherine McCullough, executive director of the Intelligent Car Coalition, an industry group. "They don't have the budget or the structure to oversee both Silicon Valley and the auto industry."
Regulators claim that they already have the authority over navigation aids, and only want it to be clearly written into law. If it should become law, it would mean a person on his/her smartphone while driving should not be forced to pay a ticket, but only if they were using a navigational app.