Pump the brakes on Big Tech

A driver using a cell phone in Eagan, Minnesota on April 24, 2019. Photo: ...


A driver using a cell phone in Eagan, Minnesota on April 24, 2019.


Photo:

Anthony Souffle / Associate Press

When you’re driving a 4,000-pound automobile at 60 miles an hour, distractions cost lives. Drivers always take selfies, broadcast live on

Facebook,

reply to text messages and scroll through news feeds. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, an average of eight people die each day in crashes caused by distracted driving.

Smartphones are often the source of these tragedies. As Big Tech sets its sights on modern vehicles, it’s worth considering whether it’s time to limit the technology that distracts and distracts the driver.

Big Tech wants to take on the auto industry. Several years ago, Google introduced its Android Automotive operating system, an operating system specially designed to work in vehicles. Video streaming services are starting to be integrated into dashboard-mounted systems, with

Amazon‘s

Fire TV already in some models.

Apple

takes an even bigger step. He is said to be seeking a partnership with an automaker that has yet to be nominated to produce Apple cars.

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Big Tech is good at capturing both user attention and information. Initially, the goal of Facebook,

Twitter,

Google and others were to offer services for free, just to attract customers. Now they exist to sell information about their users to advertisers. Their growing thirst for valuable user information has led them to the automotive industry, where a whole new world of data awaits them.

Location data, driver behavior, vehicle condition, frequent destinations, passenger preferences: Terabytes of data are found in family cars, and the average dashboard has the potential to be a Trojan horse. Smartphone mirroring, voice-activated virtual assistants, operating systems and autonomous driving software are all gateways to this information.

Mobile technology is isolated from vehicle operating systems by a so-called “hypervisor,” software that isolates infotainment functionality from critical driving electronics. If automakers move away from their main operating system to technological powerhouses, they will essentially become suppliers of computer hardware to Silicon Valley.

Automakers have opposing priorities to those of Big Tech. Their responsibility is to keep attention on the road, to provide vehicle information and a minimum of entertainment options while getting occupants from place to place in the safest way possible. Smartphone makers and digital media providers don’t have that priority. They want eyes on their products, not on the road.

With electric vehicles transforming the auto industry and technological innovations such as augmented reality and artificial intelligence more prevalent than ever, we are at a dangerous time. Automakers are, and should be, the most trusted technology companies in the world. Because their material is wrapped around families, they have an obligation to keep them safe. The only way for them to do this is to maintain control of the driver’s seat.

The quality, safety and security of the driver’s interface will make or destroy confidence in automakers. Without it, cars will be just another intrusive and risky mobile device.

Mr. Juran is CEO of Altia, an automotive software and services company.

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