Distracted Driving Concerns Grow with Tablets

By Stephanie Blanchard, Assistant Editor — June 13, 2013

As tablet use is on the rise, significantly, more enterprises are adopting the form factor to enhance and replace business processes and improve the bottom line. Field workers in particular, whether in service or sales are using tablets more than ever.

But what about when workers are in transit — literally driving? According to VDC Research, almost 75% of EMS workers use a tablet in their vehicle and so do 24% of field service employees and growing.

Hertz, for one, plans on including an “iPad-like tablet” in approximately 500,000 rental cars that service millions of business travelers around the country. If successful, its likely other rental car companies will follow suit. This is also likely to affect not just that particular sector, but all verticals as end-users come to expect a certain standard.

In addition, Hertz, which sees its technology initiative as critical to the customer experience, held a hackathon in April. The two-day event attracted almost 500 software developers all interested in creating apps for the new device which runs on Linux. If this example is any indication, tablets in vehicles are not just a quick fad.

Apple has also taken cars into consideration for its upcoming iOS7. Siri can be used “eyes free” to get directions, get iMessages and dictate responses, among other processes.

On a smaller scale financially speaking, but no less innovative, Savagegeese has been developing ELA Automative, an adaptable touchscreen interface “skin” for Android tablets to be used in vehicles. Designed to access Google Maps, and vehicle information, among other apps, the two-year project is now in its final, pre-release alpha build stage.

Get Safe
Driver safety is a top concern as it is and distracted driving is a liability for business.  It is the cause of 9 deaths and 1,060 injured individuals in the U.S. – per day – according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). The agency’s 2011 study showed that 31% of U.S. drivers (ages 18-64) had either read or sent a text message while behind the wheel.

Adding tablets to the mix has the potential of running those numbers up, if users take their eyes off the road, or take their minds off driving.

Rather than wait for unfortunate statistics, vendors are being proactive. Sprint and Aegis teamed up to create a mobile app that prevents browsing once a vehicle is moving. Motion Computing, which provides tablet PCs to utility and field service fleets, recently launched its In-Vehicle Computing Solution. The solution has built-in safety sensors that limit device use while a vehicle is in motion. If a passenger is present, however, the optional Swingaway will allow device use.
 
Get Docked
To increase productivity, fleet drivers need an easy way to reach their tablets. That’s where mounts and docks come in. Motion Computing’s solution mounts tablet to the dashboard or floor, or tablets can be custom installed.

Various vendors have similar offerings. HINT Peripherals offers universal mounts that are vehicle specific, for the most common models used in public safety fleets. ProClip Mobile Mounting Solutions works with fleets that have varying requirements per vehicle.

What about consumer-grade devices? There are the “one size fits all” mounts that adjust to fit the average size tablet. Akron and Exogear, for example, each has a universal mount that is compatible with iPads, Samsung Galaxy, HTC Flyer and the Lenovo IdeaPad, among others.

And if BlackBerry PlayBook users feel left out, there is the iGrip Windshield Tablet Kit which features a claw arm and integrated locking device so users can adjust tablets in either portrait or landscape positions.

The Next Wave
Tablets in vehicles are not just limited to cars and trucks, but to any moving machine, including tractors and lawn mowers. John Deere introduced its line of mounting brackets and attachments earlier this year.

In a company press release, Tyler Rouse, Senior Marketing Representative, John Deere Tractor Parts, said it’s critical that mobile devices “be located and mounted where they are accessible but do not interfere with visibility and machine controls.”

While companies are increasingly incorporating the use of tablets in vehicles, going even further, Corning’s Gorilla Glass, which is the shatter-resistant glass commonly found on mobile devices, may eventually be in the cars themselves – replacing standard windows. Speaking this week at the MIT Technology Review Mobile Summit, Jeffrey Evenson, Senior Vice President, Corning, discussed how Gorilla Glass could reduce a vehicle’s weight and improve fuel economy.

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