iPhone 5In a Fox News article, John R. Quain asks if the new iPhone 5 could have the unintended consequence of causing more cases of distracted driving. He says that Apple’s use of TomTom software could encourage many vehicle owners to cancel their dedicated GPS services. Built-in car navigation systems can cost $800 to $1,500, he notes, and goes on to say:

Of course, free phone-based navigation usually only works when you’ve got a reliable cell connection (as in Apple’s and Google’s case); most in-dash systems have no such weakness. But you do the math: Free vs. hundreds of dollars, how difficult a decision is that?

But using a phone for driving directions is not as convenient as using an in-car system, as Quain points out. Without a cradle mount, a driver is likely to gaze down at the smartphone’s directions. And even with the iPhone 5’s larger screen and improved speaker, “it can be difficult to make out directions when you’re negotiating heavy traffic at 65 mph,” Quain writes. And by having the phone turned on and handy, there is potential distraction of texting and social networking while driving.

In his blog Pogue’s Posts, on The New York Times, David Pogue writes that the challenge in creating a new operating system is how to add features without making things even more complex. “On a tiny phone screen, that challenge becomes even more difficult,” he writes. He notes that in addition to iOS 6 installed on the iPhone 5 and the new fifth-generation iPod Touch, Apple is making it available to anyone with a recent iPhone (3GS, 4, or 4S), iPod Touch (fourth generation), or iPad (2 or 3).

FoxNews’s Quain writes that although Apple includes a “Do Not Disturb” feature in the iPhone 5’s new iOS 6 software, it has to be switched on. Moreover, it is intended to mute calls and messages (except from those you designate as important people), not to stop distractions while driving, Quain notes.

There are ways around this potential distraction problem, but they are not easy to implement because there are no standards for technology, Quain writes. He says many car- and smartphone makers favor making the phones work seamlessly with in-dash systems, which are larger, upfront displays. “Such systems,” Quain writes, “usually lock out the phone’s screen once the handset is tethered to the car, preventing drivers from reaching for their Android handset.”

And although there are many such systems coming out in 2013 models, the fact that there is no standard in place makes it difficult, as a different app is needed, for example, with Ford’s Sync, Mercedes-Benz’s mbrace, and Toyota’s Entune. And making things even more complicated, each proprietary system allows different functions, Quain writes; some allow a driver or passenger to play Pandora, others only Rdio.

The Car Connectivity Consortium (CCC) has been promoting the MirrorLink format, Quain writes, but few products support it; it only works on a few Android smartphones at present. Bill Howard writes for ExtremeTech that with MirrorLink, navigation and music displays appear on the car’s LCD screen while the vehicle is moving, but for safety, videos and Angry Birds do not. Howard quotes Mika Rytkonen, CCC chairman and president: “Without MirrorLink, motorists suffer an ‘asynchronous, jarring and disorganized connected driving experience.'”

In a related matter, U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) Secretary Ray LaHood writes on his blog, Fast Lane, that now is a good time to educate young people about the dangers of distracted driving, as they are back in school. LaHood says that 400 “Celebrate My Drive” teen safe driving events were held last Saturday across the nation. On the third week in October, State Farm Insurance will announce which 14 high schools will receive $100,000 grants, and which 14 teens won brand new cars in the “Celebrate My Drive” contest.

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