“Getting directions on the road from Google Maps and other smartphone apps is a popular alternative to the expensive navigation aids included in some cars. The apps are also a gray area when it comes to laws banning the use of cellphones or texting while driving,” Matthew L. Wald reports for The New York Times. “The Transportation Department wants to enter the argument.”

“The department is intensifying its battle against distracted driving by seeking explicit authority from Congress to regulate navigation aids of all types, including apps on smartphones,” Wald reports. “The measure, included in the Obama administration’s proposed transportation bill, would specify that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has the authority to set restrictions on the apps and later order changes if they are deemed dangerous, much the way it currently regulates mechanical features of cars.”

“The measure has the support of automakers, which already mostly comply with voluntary guidelines for built-in navigation systems, but it has run into stiff opposition from technology companies, which say that any such law would be impractical and impossible to enforce. It’s another example, they say, of federal regulators trying vainly to keep up with a rapidly changing industry,” Wald reports. “‘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.'”

“The dominant companies in the industry are Google and Apple, which have made maps a central part of their smartphones — not only for navigation but also as a way to gather data and contextual information for their search functions and apps. Google and Apple declined to comment,” Wald reports. “Harold Feld, senior vice president of Public Knowledge, a digital rights advocacy group, said the navigation apps were not inherently dangerous. Being able to enter a new destination into a navigation device on the fly, he said, is “a pretty good thing” and could often be done by a passenger. And navigation apps allow for voice commands. With Google Maps or Apple’s Maps on nearly every smartphone sold in the United States, he asked, ‘Does their regulatory status change in a car? How the heck would anyone monitor that?'”

Read more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: Government. Stifling innovation one regulatory overreach at a time.

Once you get too many rules, that will stifle innovation. — Sergey Brin

Government’s view of the economy could be summed up in a few short phrases: If it moves, tax it. If it keeps moving, regulate it. And if it stops moving, subsidize it. — Ronald Reagan

Government is not reason; it is not eloquent; it is force. Like fire, it is a dangerous servant and a fearful master. — George Washington

Government, even in its best state, is but a necessary evil; in its worst state, an intolerable one. — Thomas Paine

The marvel of all history is the patience with which men and women submit to burdens unnecessarily laid upon them by their governments. — George Washington