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The U.S. government wants to regulate Google Maps & all other car navigation apps

A highway traffic jam.

Above: A highway traffic jam.

Image Credit: Lisa S. / Shutterstock

If the U.S. government has its way, the Transportation Department will have full oversight over apps like Google Maps, Apple Maps, and Waze.

The Obama administration’s proposed transportation bill would allow the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to regulate all types of vehicle navigation aids, including smartphone apps and smart dashboard systems. The agency could set restrictions and demand changes if the apps appear to threaten in-car safety, reports the New York Times.

Some tech firms have loudly protested the pending legislation. They argue the laws would be impractical to enforce in a rapidly changing market with tens of thousands of navigation apps.

“How can any regulatory authority hope to effectively police such a complex environment?” Timothy McGuckin, CEO of road toll payment startup GeoToll, asked in an op-ed on The Hill.

To mollify tech companies’ concerns, officials clarified that the Transportation Department wouldn’t seek to review apps before they hit the market. But it would have the authority to demand changes to an app it deems dangerous, much like it regulates the mechanical features of cars.

The government doesn’t have immediate plans to issue a strict set of rules, however. A variety of proposals could make their way into the highway bill Congress appears likely to pass in next few months.

Regulators issued a set of voluntary guidelines for in-dashboard navigation systems last year. They specify that a single interaction should take no more than 2 seconds. Automakers have largely complied with the guidelines.


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