How Safe Are Dashboards That Want To Be Smartphones?

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Good Morning! Welcome to The Morning Shift, your roundup of the auto news you crave, all in one place every weekday morning. Here are the important stories you need to know.


1st Gear: How Safe Is Your Screen?

New car buyers love fancy, smartphone-like infotainment systems even if they’re always complaining about them. But how safe is a car with a screen you’re always having to stare at? This Reuters piece weighs the costs and benefits, and reveals that (shockingly!) there’s basically no regulation governing them at this point:

Currently, dashboard displays are only lightly regulated. Many states forbid the airing of non-navigational videos by drivers while cars are in motion, except for safety video systems designed to help with backing up and other tasks.

Federal motor vehicle standards stipulate only a few rules, including that the brightness on displays be adjustable.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has issued driver-distraction guidelines for dashboard displays in moving cars. They advise against displays that include photographs or moving images unrelated to driving, and suggest that drivers shouldn’t need to tap a button or key more than six times to complete a task. But so far, the guidelines are voluntary, with automakers under no obligation to comply.

Better give NHTSA more money so they can make everything better. (That was sarcasm.)

2nd Gear: Toyota Exec Won’t Face Charges

In case you missed it in our new roundup of auto news from Asia, Toyota’s now-resigned director of global communications Julie Hamp — who was jailed after police said she smuggled Oxycodone painkiller pills into Japan by mail in toy necklaces — will not face criminal charges. Once again via Reuters:

Japan’s daily Yomiuri newspaper reported Hamp was unlikely to be charged because prosecutors judged there was little criminal intent in the case, in which a family member had mailed Oxycodone pills to her to alleviate knee pain.

Hamp’s career is likely over, but she dodged what could have been serious time behind bars.

3rd Gear: GM Death Toll Hits 121

General Motors’ outside fund to compensate the families of those killed and injured in wrecks involving the defective ignition switch is wrapping up soon, but not before the death toll is likely to rise more. Yesterday it increased to 121 deaths and 243 injuries. From The Detroit News:

The fund is nearly at the end of its year-old review of ignition deaths and injuries, but the number of claims under review remained flat over a week earlier. Just 76 of the 4,342 claims submitted are currently under review. The fund’s Deputy Administrator, Camille Biros, said Monday the fund expects to wrap up its review of claims by the end of July.


But it won’t cover all GM ignition switch deaths, just some of them.

4th Gear: At Least One Other Person Wants A GM-Fiat Chrysler Merger

Turns out Sergio Marchionne isn’t the only one pondering a merger with GM. It turns out Fiat chairman and Agnelli family heir John Elkann joins him in this dream. Via The Wall Street Journal:

“GM hasn’t been put to rest,” the 39-year-old Mr. Elkann said in an interview in a Milan conference room where he presented himself as a determined and patient believer that Fiat Chrysler, with €96.1 billion ($106.81 billion) in annual revenue last year, eventually will find a partner. “GM is not the only option, but no doubt from a feasibility and quantum point of view it is by far the best.”



5th Gear: The New Mustang Is Outselling Normal-Person Cars

Here on The Morning Shift we’ve covered how the new 2015 Ford Mustang is proving to be an extremely hot seller, particularly in EcoBoost form. But just how hot is it? According to our friend Tim Cain over at Good Car Bad Car, 11,719 Mustangs were sold in June, making it the top-selling sporty car in America by a wide margin and a better seller than a lot of normal cars:

The Mustang now routinely achieves mainstream-like figures. Year-to-date, through the first-half of 2015, the Mustang is America’s 16th-best-selling car, ahead of the Kia Soul, Volkswagen Jetta, Chevrolet Impala, Toyota Prius, and Mazda 3.


More people bought Mustangs than Priuses. What a time to be alive in America.

I’m wrapping up a week of driving the new GT. You’ll get a full review later this week. It’s quite good.


Reverse: RIP

On this day in 2000–eight weeks to the day after the fourth-generation NASCAR driver Adam Petty was killed during practice at the New Hampshire International Speedway in Loudon, New Hampshire–the driver Kenny Irwin Jr. dies at the same speedway, near the exact same spot, after his car slams into the wall at 150 mph during a practice run.


Neutral: Can Car Screens Be Safe?

Is there a way to make them so they aren’t a distraction? Some companies are experimenting with gesture controls; maybe that’s the way to go.


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I mean...some nav systems don’t even have lockouts when moving. My moms Range Rover allows you to input a full address on the highway at 70 mph using possibly the worst interface ever put in a car.