Obama administration seeks to regulate Apple Maps, other navigation apps in vehicles

“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

70 Comments

    1. If you’re using a paper map while driving an in-motion automobile, you’re just as dangerous as someone using an electronic map. So, in this case there’s no difference.

      1. The only time I’ve ever seen or heard of someone that is actually driving while looking at map themselves is in movies. By the way, many states already have laws against talking on your cell phone and driving. The point of all this is safety.

    2. Having had the experience of my brand new BMW Z4 being rear ended by an illegal alien cab driver at 35 MPH who was “looking at a map,” I see humor in what the government seeks to regulate and what they do not.

      You can’t tell me that a device giving verbal turn by turn instructions isn’t safer than a Thomas Guide.

      If people would just pull over to operate their devices we’d all be fine. Unfortunately you can’t legislate away stupidity, and those people will still be out there.

    3. How many orders of magnitude greater is the number of people who have a smartphone in their car versus the number of people who have a paper map in their car.

      Additionally, how many paper maps tell you where You can find a Starbucks?

  1. I would assume that it’s to provide consistency in safety waivers for embedded navigation apps, considering Waze warns you if you try to type in a moving car whereas Google and Apple don’t. Automakers, of course, support this because if someone DIES in a crash while using an embedded nav app, people sue the car company.

    1. Without seeing what has been proposed there sure is a lot of quick protest. People protested requirements for air bags, seat belts and other safety innovations that save lives everyday. Let’s see what the proposed rules are before complaining.

  2. From the article:

    “The underlying issue has already worked its way into the courts. In California, Steven R. Spriggs received a $165 ticket two years ago for using his iPhone while driving in stop-and-go traffic near Fresno. A highway patrol motorcycle officer rolled up alongside his car after seeing the glow from the screen on Mr. Spriggs’s face.

    “I held it up and said, ‘It’s a map,’ ” Mr. Spriggs said. He was not talking on the phone, which is prohibited by California law.

    But the police officer would not budge. “He said, ‘Pull over, it doesn’t matter,’ ” said Mr. Spriggs, the director of planned giving at California State University, Fresno.

    An appeals court ruled this year that it did matter, and Mr. Spriggs’s conviction was reversed.”

    Seems like some rules regarding usage may be necessary. It’s not as if they’re going to ban the apps.

  3. The government wants a kill switch for this too.

    Hard to overthrow the government when they can disable maps and track where “trouble makers” are.

  4. This is what Tyrants do. I don’t recall this being in the Constitutional authority of the President. Of course I don’t recall encouraging third world children to illegally enter our country so they can tap into our welfare system being part of the President’s job either. We elected a shithead tyrant with very big ears and a feminine throwing motion. We are stuck with him for 2 and 1/2 more unless we start enforcing the Constitution and have him arrested. Which would be good. Then we could all use our Apple Maps without fear of a federal strike force breaking into our cars.

    1. Nice post Kent, I like it. I’d love to see the American people grow a spine and enforce the constitution and not only throw out your president, put him in jail, but in the case of G.W. Bush bring him to the Hague to answer for crimes against humanity.

      It won’t happen however as long as long as the people are weak and from what I’ve seen over the last few years the American people have lost their nerve and spine one vertebrae at a time.

      “What wisdom can you find that is greater than kindness?”
      Jean-Jacques Rousseau

      1. The American people grow a spine? Doubtful. Most still gladly hand over their hard earned money to the government because they believe it to be income that is taxable. Or, they believe the Internal Rectum Service’s “zero basis” rule, which considers wages, salaries and other personal earnings to be 100% profit.

        Even the courts have said otherwise, but nobody’s paying attention.

        Adkins v. Children’s Hospital, 261 U.S. 525, 558, 43 S.Ct. 394 (1923) the court stated: “In principle, there can be no difference between the case of selling labor and the case of selling goods.”

        Adair v. United States, 208 U.S. 161, 172, 28 S.Ct. 277 (1908): “Such liberty and right embrace the right to make contracts for the purchase of the labor of others, and equally the right to make contracts for the sale of one’s own labor; each right, however, being subject to the fundamental condition that no contract, whatever its subject-matter, can be sustained which the law, upon reasonable grounds, forbids as inconsistent with the public interests, or as hurtful to the public order, or as detrimental to the common good,” Id., at 172. “Of course, the liberty of contract relating to labor includes both parties to it. The one has as much right to purchase as the other to sell labor. The right of a person to sell his labor upon such terms as he deems proper is, in its essence, the same as the right of the purchaser of labor to prescribe the conditions upon which he will accept such labor from the person offering to sell it,” Id., at 174.

        State v. Goldstein, 207 Ala. 569, 573, 93 So. 308 (1922): 
” ‘A person living under the protection of this government has the right to adopt and follow any lawful industrial pursuit not injurious to the community which he may see fit. And as incident to this is the right to labor or employ labor, make contracts in respect thereto upon such terms as may be agreed upon by the parties,’etc. The right to buy and sell property, and contract in respect thereto, including contracts for labor is protected by the Constitution. If the Legislature without any public necessity has the power to prohibit or restrict the right of contract between private persons in respect of one lawful trade or business, then it may prevent the prosecution of all trades, and regulate all contracts.”

    2. “This position completely ignores the value of reckless driving. If one were to believe _____, safe driving is some sort of magic elixir for panacea and other ills. There is no other area of modern life more highly regimented and controlled by the government, than life behind the wheel. Between speed limits, mandatory headlights and divided highways, today’s driver is encased in a web of womb-like precaution….”

      ~ The Credibility Gap/The Bronze Age of Radio/1977

  5. I wish the commander-in-chief would focus more on fighting al-Qaeda in Iraq, instead of surrendering – and leave the driving regulations to the states.

  6. Not to worry.

    IF CarPlay is truly “eyes free and hands free” then CarPlay may be the only implementation that has a low enough distraction level that it will be acceptable to any regulatory agency. This is a truly HUGE IF as I have seen nothing yet to support it. The images and explanations on Apple’s site don’t instill a lot of confidence that it will be implemented as truly “eyes free and hands free” . Having to touch the screen and/or use the car’s own controls violate this premise.

    The real hurdle will be making it truly “eyes free”. It must be able to interact with the drive without the driver having to stare at a screen (an not the road or environment around the car) for several seconds. Most of the systems I’ve seen so far require the driver to look at the screen for several continuous seconds to figure out what is on the screen and then physically interact with it.

    We have “hands free” ways to make phone calls and such now. Virtually any car that supports a Bluetooth link to a cellular phone can make and receive phone calls with a single push of a button on the steering wheel. While not 100% “hands free”, it’s probably close enough to qualify.

    Apple needs to take this to the next step. All the other interactions from music choice to maps must be have a “hands free and eyes free” interface.

    1. Don’t Worry Be Happy 😉 or rather Don’t Be Naive about the inevitable.

      I like your comment, especially the beginning that sounds like the old song by Bobby McFerrin “Don’t worry, Be Happy” and the eyes and hands free part. Agree with most of it.
      I think it is inevitable that the future of driving is going to be packed with regulations and I’m a bit surprised that so many tech minded people writing on MDN seem blind to that.

      Of course we are going to see our driving regulated more and more. It’s not the once free and wild west we are living in today, no we are not. Of course we are going to see som stupid one’s on the road, just like we have different politicians, right or left, conservative or liberal or what else. But surely for the better of it in due time. I am not talking here about the future with Google’s driverless car-play which I think is plain stupid, just take the train if your are not fit for driving.

      I like to have driving licences regulated and drunk and driving also as we have today. I have even driven a car that needed the driver (me) to breath into a breath analyzer to be able to start the engine. We build cars with more power, hence there comes speed limits/regulations. But is that all we need? No of course not. But also for intoxication of a lot of other stuffs besides alcohol and some drugs.

      And then there are a lot of other so called distractions for the driver as f ex quarelling wife/husband as a co-driver not trusting your GPS ;-), fighting kids in the back seat, music as a distraction and so on 😉 What can we do about that? Get a more stable family? /s.

      Who says the driver is not the real “distraction” or danger to driving and he doesn’t have to be intoxicated, just unstable and some of them very much so. In my job I have met many depressed people who had been driving for ours just looking for the “right car” to go frontal with. Don’t want to confront them driving do you?

      I see driving in the future packed with so many regulations that we can’t even dream them up today, for the better or worse. If you have something to say, the go into politics and if you don’t have time for it then convince someone who is.

      1. I see a future not just with alco-breathing test, but various other tests, even mood test or stability test.
        To start the car you need the start key and driving license and some method of confirmation (fingerprint/iris scan) that you are the beholder of this driving license.
        Then you are able to control this or that drivers top speed, beginners with lower speed limits, getting an upgrade after so and so many miles accident free. Of course no one drives intoxicated because the engine will not even start.
        What a boring situation in future – less excitement and risktaking /s. Then we will not be interested in unlocking the iPhones anymore, just cars.

        1. Having lived in a country for 30+ years where socialism was the way of life and now living in a country (the USA) where liberalism is a viable alternative to the rampant excesses of the current GOP as dragged further to the right by the ridiculously unrealistic tea party, I can assure you that there is a world of difference. You right wingers have NO idea what socialism is. Your ignorance is exceeded only by your self righteousness.

  7. “Government. Stifling innovation one regulatory overreach at a time.

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

    Uh, some regulations are good, some are bad. I’d say that Brin’s quote is consistent with that, not a universal badmouthing of regulation. Business consistently has fought for things that are bad for the public health and consumers in the name of “free enterprise”. Government regulation is just one of the many forces that businesses have. Does that mean all regulation is good? Of course not.

    The critical issue is what those regulations should be, if any. Simply throwing out an old bromide “regulations are bad” isn’t useful. But it is certainly reasonable to make the argument that it will be impossible to make a good set of regulations on smartphone/tablet maps. There has to be room for a good faith discussion of whether regulations would be in the public good, or not. Also, historically, business has been able to innovate enough to make regulations less burdensome. For example, I’m pretty confident that both Apple and Google can figure out a way to thrive if some regulations on their maps apps are enacted. Do you really think that they are such shoddily run companies that they cannot deal with a good regulations?

    1. Thank you, well said. I grow weary of the knee jerk demonizing of government and regulations. Without regs, the dollar would dictate everything, at the expense of us, our lives, our rights, and our planet.

    2. Fair points all, but let’s also be more cynical: the automakers have been soaking the consumer for embeded “NAV” systems which are easily outperformed by a $200 GPS or a ‘Free’ iOS App.

      …so don’t think that it is beneath them to use the Government to create a lame regulatory requirement to restrict their competition.

      -hh

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