[Federal Register Volume 65, Number 105 (Wednesday, May 31, 2000)]
[Pages 34797-34800]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 00-13535]



National Highway Traffic Safety Administration

[Docket No. NHTSA-99-6270]

Notice of Public Meeting and Internet Forum on the Safety 
Implications of Driver Distraction When Using In-Vehicle Technologies

AGENCY: National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), DOT.

ACTION: Notice of public meeting and internet forum.


SUMMARY: NHTSA is holding two public events that focus on the potential 
safety implications associated with driver distraction while using 
advanced in-vehicle technologies that receive, transmit, or display 
various types of information. The devices of interest include those 
that allow drivers to phone, fax, obtain route guidance, view infrared 
images on a head-up display, and use the Internet and other such 

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    One event is an international Internet Forum which is expected to 
begin on July 5, 2000, and end on August 11, 2000. The Internet Forum 
will provide an opportunity for technical experts as well as the 
general public to download technical papers, ask questions about the 
papers, relate their experiences regarding the use of in-vehicle 
devices and their impact on safety in general and driving performance 
in particular, and participate in exchange of views on related 
technical issues. Researchers and technical experts are invited to 
submit papers for inclusion in the Internet Forum that focus on 
characterizing the current and future safety impact of driver 
distraction when using in-vehicle technologies, evaluating how device 
characteristics affect vehicle safety and determine the impact of 
driver distraction on safe operation of vehicles, identifying and 
evaluating approaches to minimize driver distraction, and recommending 
needed research and other safety initiatives. Overviews of ongoing 
research programs and descriptions of industry practices are also 
    NHTSA will also hold a public meeting on Tuesday, July 18, 2000, at 
which representatives of the public, industry, government, and safety 
groups are invited to share viewpoints, information, and 
recommendations regarding strategies to minimize potential adverse 
effects of driver distraction on safety when using such telematic 
devices. In particular, NHTSA is interested in hearing about different 
technologies and devices being proposed for use in vehicles which may 
have a bearing on safe driving, viewpoints regarding the roles of 
various entities in promoting best practices in the design of those 
devices and their use, approaches for evaluating the safety impacts of 
such systems, and what new research and other safety initiatives are 
needed. NHTSA will utilize the information from the public meeting and 
Internet Forum as a basis for discussions at a Technical Workshop of 
invited researchers and technology developers to be scheduled at a 
later date. The goal of the Technical Workshop is to generate 
recommendations for distraction reducing strategies, data needs, and 
research methodologies.
    Persons interested in attending the public meeting might also be 
interested in attending the National Intelligent Vehicle Initiative 
Meeting, July 19-20, 2000, which will be held at the Ronald Reagan 
Building and International Trade Center in Washington, DC. This 
meeting, sponsored by the U.S. Department of Transportation and 
administered by SAE International, will promote public/stakeholder 
awareness of efforts to improve traffic safety using intelligent 
vehicle technologies, showcase accomplishments, and validate research 
and development efforts. Further information on this meeting can be 
found at http://www.its.dot.gov.

DATES: Internet Forum: The Internet Forum will be open for registration 
on June 23, 2000, while the technical papers will be posted on July 5, 
2000. The Forum will remain active until August 11, 2000. Thereafter, 
the information will remain available through NHTSA's Web site for 
viewing only.
    Public Meeting: NHTSA will hold the public meeting on Tuesday, July 
18, 2000, starting at 8:30 a.m. and ending at about 5:00 p.m. or 
earlier as determined by the number of presenters. A preliminary agenda 
will be posted on NHTSA's Web site at URL http://www.nhtsa.dot.gov/nhtsa/announcements/meetings/, by June 30, 2000.

ADDRESSES: Internet Forum: The Internet Forum Web site address will be 
    Public Meeting: The public meeting will be held in Room 2230, U.S. 
Department of Transportation, 400 Seventh Street, S.W., Washington, DC 
    Written Comments: If you wish to submit written comments on the 
issues related to distraction or any topics discussed at the public 
meeting, those comments should be submitted to Docket No. NHTSA-99-6270 
at the following address: Docket Management Facility, U.S. Department 
of Transportation, Room PL-401, 400 Seventh Street, S.W., Washington, 
DC 20590. Docket hours for hand delivery are from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 
p.m. on weekdays. Comments can be sent by fax to 202-493-2251 or by 
electronic submission. The electronic submission procedure is described 
in the Docket Management section of NHTSA's Web site.

    For technical questions: Michael Perel, Office of Vehicle Safety 
Research, NRD-13, 400 Seventh Street, S.W., Washington, DC 20590 
(telephone 202-366-5675, fax 202-366-7237, E-mail: 
    To participate in the public meeting: Rita Gibbons (telephone: 202-
366-4862, fax: 202-366-5930, E-mail: rita.gibbons@nhtsa.dot.gov). E-
mail or fax is preferred.


A. Background

    The increasing utilization of certain advanced technologies in 
automobiles brings both the promise of enhanced safety, comfort, 
security, and convenience as well as concerns about possible impact on 
safety if they distract driver attention from the driving task. 
Technologies which transmit, receive, or display information from a 
motor vehicle include devices such as wireless phones and Internet 
connections, navigation/route guidance systems, and fax capability 
collectively known as telematics, as well as night vision systems and 
others. Some in-vehicle technologies provide direct safety benefits, 
such as automatic crash notification to emergency medical services and 
hazard alerts to inform drivers of dangerous traffic and roadway 
conditions. However, any devices which require drivers to look at 
displays and/or process information, or which require drivers to 
perform various tasks in order to operate controls of in-vehicle 
devices, will also distract them and thus increase their crash risk. 
Distraction occurs from looking away from the road and from being 
mentally distracted while attending to traffic. Sometimes the 
activities required to operate these devices lead to drivers 
occasionally taking their hands off the steering wheel even for a short 
while. If the distraction coincides with any of such events as the 
sudden braking of a lead vehicle, a lead vehicle in an adjacent lane 
cutting in front, a pedestrian crossing the road, or an unanticipated 
obstacle or curve in the road simultaneously occurring, the likelihood 
of a crash increases substantially.
    NHTSA has been concerned about the potential safety impact of 
driver distraction from using advanced, in-vehicle technologies for a 
number of years. In 1998, NHTSA published available information on the 
potential effects of wireless phones on traffic safety. In conjunction 
with the DOT Intelligent Vehicle Initiative, NHTSA completed several 
research studies that focused on measuring the effect of driver 
distraction from navigation systems on driving performance. Additional 
research is currently underway that focuses on drivers' use of wireless 
phones in naturalistic driving situations. In 1998, NHTSA sent a letter 
(available in Docket NHTSA-99-5098-01) to vehicle manufacturer 
executives urging them to personally ensure that the application of 
advanced technologies does not pose safety risks and to ``maintain or 
establish rigorous internal design protocols to address this 
possibility.'' While the primary focus of

[[Page 34799]]

that letter was inflatable restraints, the letter pointed out that the 
``introduction of all new technologies, such as navigation and warning 
systems, head-up displays, and other intelligent systems'' must be 
accomplished in a way that is safe for drivers. In a February 10, 1999, 
public statement, the agency said that, ``Manufacturers have an 
obligation to thoroughly and adequately test the safety of any new 
technology under real world conditions prior to introduction into the 

B. Internet Forum on the Safety Implications of Driver Distraction 
When Using In-Vehicle Technologies

    To provide an opportunity for further technical discussions among a 
wider range of participants than is possible at the public meeting, 
NHTSA is initiating an international Internet Forum devoted to 
presentations of research studies and other initiatives related to the 
safety impact of driver distraction when using in-vehicle devices. It 
will also provide a forum for discussions of research and related 
issues by interested parties, technical professionals, and the public, 
both in the United States and internationally. NHTSA will also post on 
the Internet information on past and present research on driver 
    The key topics to be addressed in the Internet Forum are:
    1. How do in-vehicle technologies influence driver distractions? 
What are the effects of distraction on safety and safe driving 
performance? How does distraction from in-vehicle technologies differ 
from and compare to distraction due to other sources?
    2. Methodological challenges in measuring the influence of design 
features of devices, their operation, and their impact on distraction 
and safe driving performance.
    3. Effective government, industry, and consumer actions to minimize 
    4. Current and future research necessary to support actions to 
minimize distraction.
    Participation in the Internet Forum: Persons interested in 
submitting technical papers on current or past research or activities 
related to the above topics should send an electronic copy to Michael 
Perel by June 15, 2000. Technical papers should include an abstract, be 
in English, modeled after conference style proceedings, and should be 
about 4-5 pages in length (not including graphics). Overviews of 
ongoing research programs and discussions of industry practices are 
also welcome. NHTSA will review submissions and notify authors of 
acceptance within 2 weeks of receipt. Submissions will be reviewed 
according to the relevance of the paper to the Forum, the clarity of 
the writing, the validity of experimental methodology used, if any, the 
degree to which conclusions are supported by data, and the usefulness 
of the paper to decision makers in the government, practitioners, 
researchers, and others. Due to the relatively short time for 
preparation and review, persons interested in submitting material are 
strongly encouraged to contact Michael Perel in advance of submitting 
such material. The documents should be in Microsoft WORD, Corel 
Wordperfect, Adobe pdf, or ASCII text format. If authors have 
previously published studies and wish to have the studies included on 
the Internet Forum Web site as a resource for others interested in the 
topic, they should send the studies in electronic format or submit a 
Web site link to the material if it is already on line.
    Persons not submitting a technical paper, may register to join the 
Forum to view technical papers, post questions to authors, join 
discussion groups on related topics, or answer questions about their 
experience using in-vehicle technologies. The Web site for registering 
for the conference will be www.driverdistraction.org.
    Procedural matters: The Internet Forum will be open for 
registration on June 23, 2000. Technical papers will be posted on July 
5, 2000. The Forum will be active until August 11, 2000. After that 
date, the material presented will be archived and remain available for 
viewing on NHTSA's Web site. Also, a summary of the Forum will be 
prepared and posted on this Web site.

C. Public Meeting

    On July 18, 2000, NHTSA will conduct a public meeting, providing a 
forum for industry, safety, research groups, and the general public to 
discuss strategies for realizing the benefits of in-vehicle 
technologies without increasing the risk of crashes due to driver 
distraction. The objective of this meeting is to share viewpoints and 
information on the following general topics:
    1. What new technologies and features are being planned for use by 
    2. The role of various entities in promoting best practices in the 
design and use of these devices
    3. How to evaluate the safety impacts of such systems and what are 
safety-relevant ways to measure driver distraction
    4. Ongoing activities to promote safe use of in-vehicle 
    5. Additional activities and research needed.
    1. Written Statements, Presentations, and Comments: The agency has 
established Docket No. NHTSA-99-6270 as a repository for presentations, 
statements, and comments on issues related to the safety of in-vehicle 
technologies. Written or electronic submissions may be made to this 
docket at any time. For written materials, two copies should be 
submitted to Docket Management at the address given at the beginning of 
this document. The materials must not exceed 15 pages in length (49 CFR 
553.21). Necessary attachments may be appended to the submissions 
without regard to the 15-page limit. This limitation is intended to 
encourage commenters to detail their primary arguments in a concise 
fashion. Presentations made at the public meeting will also be posted 
in a separate section of the Internet Forum Web site if the presenter 
submits an electronic version of the presentation including a separate 
brief abstract or overview by July 5, 2000. Any comments made at the 
public meeting and a summary of the discussions that take place will be 
posted on the Internet after the meeting. The electronic submissions 
for the Internet Forum should be sent by E-mail (5 mb max), floppy 
disk, or CD ROM to Michael Perel at the address given above.
    If a commenter wishes to submit certain information under a claim 
of confidentiality, three copies of the complete submission, including 
purportedly confidential business information, should be submitted to 
the Chief Counsel, NHTSA, at 400 Seventh Street, SW., Washington, DC 
20590. Additionally, two copies of the above document from which the 
purportedly confidential information has been deleted should be 
submitted to Docket Management. A request for confidentiality should be 
accompanied by a cover letter setting forth the information specified 
in the agency's confidential business information regulation, 49 CFR 
Part 512.
    2. Meeting Participation: This is a public meeting, and attendance 
is open to all members of the public. You may attend as a participant 
or an observer. If you plan to attend the meeting, contact Rita Gibbons 
at the address, telephone, fax, or the E-mail listed above before July 
5, 2000. E-mail or Fax is preferred. If you wish to present a prepared 
oral statement during the meeting, please send a copy of your statement 
to Mr. Perel by July 5, 2000.
    3. Procedural Matters: A written transcript of the meeting will be 
made. Speakers will have a maximum of 15-

[[Page 34800]]

20 minutes. Presenters may be questioned by a panel of government 
officials. Time permitting, audience members may submit written 
questions for the panel to ask the presenters.

    Issued on: May 25, 2000.
Raymond P. Owings,
Associate Administrator for Research and Development.
[FR Doc. 00-13535 Filed 5-30-00; 8:45 am]