The No.1 enemy in the fight against driver distraction could be its savior.

That's how Delphi Corp. views it, as the supplier builds its next-generation infotainment strategy firmly around cellular smartphone technology.

U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood has declared war on driver distraction, with much of the focus on weaning Americans off texting and other cell-phone use while behind the wheel.

Some auto makers and suppliers are clinging to traditional infotainment technologies, such as in-dash navigation and audio systems, but not Delphi.

If the supplier's path ultimately proves the correct one, it could spell the end to a number of automotive components over the long haul, including standard and satellite radio units, key fobs, switches, mirrors and gauges.

Already, 40% of cell-phone sales in North America are smartphones, says Robert Schumacher, general director-advance product and business development. That will rise to 60% by 2012.

China will surpass the U.S. as the largest smartphone market this year, and use of the devices is growing at compound annual rates above 30% in such countries as Brazil, India, Nigeria and Turkey, he says.

In the U.S., 51% of vehicle owners have smartphones, with 30% already using their devices while driving.

Research indicates by 2013 every new vehicle sold in the U.S. will have smartphone connectivity, and by 2016 a vehicle's smartphone interface will be a purchase driver for new-car buyers.

Plus, smartphones are becoming extremely versatile, Schumacher notes. So why not take advantage of all that computing power? "The mobile computing industry will pass the desktop computer industry very soon," he predicts.

Delphi's concept is fairly simple: Link the vehicle systems with the smartphone via Bluetooth and Wi-Fi and replicate the phone's control panel on the center-stack liquid-crystal display screen.

Drivers would be able to operate cell-phone applications, such as Google navigation, Pandora Internet radio or email retrieval, as well as listen to stored music and send text messages.

To prevent all this from taking the driver's eyes off the road, the flat-panel display turns from full color to black and white and only certain phone functions are available once the vehicle is shifted out of park. This puts the driver-distraction potential on par with current radio controls, Schumacher claims.

The Delphi concept works with 3G or coming 4G wireless technology and several smartphone operating systems, including Apple's iPhone and Google's Android software. All onboard systems will be designed with open architectures, using the Linux operating system, making it easy for third-party developers to offer compatible apps.

In the Delphi cockpit, fitted inside a GMC Acadia, there is no conventional radio head. Instead, a small transmitter that can relay both broadcast and satellite signals is combined with the vehicle's antenna, sending information to the computer-based display unit.

There is no CD or DVD player onboard, and Schumacher predicts the last of the factory-installed units will appear in 2015-2016. He also says the radio transmitter ultimately could be eliminated, as well, replaced entirely by smartphone-provided Internet-based radio.

Schumacher says elements of the integrated-smartphone approach will be offered as an upscale option in a '13-model vehicle in the U.S.

The business model for all this remains unclear. As auto makers and suppliers lose income associated with navigation- and audio-system hardware, they may try to sell car buyers brand-specific software app by app, Schumacher says.