DRIVER DISTRACTION TRIGGERED BY THE avalanche of new information technology available in cars and trucks needs serious attention by auto makers and electronics suppliers to avoid regulation.

That's the considered word from Jeff DeBest, Johnson Controls group vice president and general manager-global electronics.

“We're going to need collaboration between the automotive and electronics industries or face more government regulation,” DeBest says.

Thirty-four states already ban texting while driving. One problem with broad regulation is “you're fighting against what people basically want,” DeBest explains.

Still, technology is available to alleviate distraction concerns, he adds. Hands-on cell-phone usage could be blocked, for example. “But the question is, would all phones in the car or only the driver's be blocked?” DeBest says.

Auto makers — and JCI — support hands-free communication, but it's not yet available on all models.

DeBest visualizes more “harvesting” of existing vehicle intelligence to improve communication between the driver and outside sources.

Two years ago, JCI introduced what DeBest describes as a “medium” head-up display that pops up between the steering wheel and windshield to provide information on demand without seriously distracting the driver.

He claims it's a major advance over head-up systems that project directly onto the windshield, which can be hard to read and usually show information in black and white.

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