Why can't my passenger enter car GPS navigation?

Car companies want you to use voice -- and they're not good at it.

Brian Cooley Editor at Large
Brian Cooley is CNET's Editor at large and has been with the brand since 1995. He currently focuses on electrification of vehicles but also follows the big trends in smart home, digital healthcare, 5G, the future of food, and augmented & virtual realities. Cooley is a sought after presenter by brands and their agencies when they want to understand how consumers react to new technologies. He has been a regular featured speaker at CES, Cannes Lions, Advertising Week and the Publicis HealthFront. He was born and raised in Silicon Valley when Apple's campus was mostly apricots.
Expertise Automotive technology, smart home, digital health. Credentials
  • 5G Technician, ETA International
Brian Cooley
2 min read

I get a lot of questions about car screen input being disabled when the car is in motion, even when a perfectly good navigator is in the right hand seat. 

Cars can detect when there is a passenger in the front row, but unlocking screen input for them while moving also unlocks it for the driver and that gets into a temptation scenario carmakers don't want to support.

Watch this: Why your car disables destination entry when driving

Of course, they want us to use their voice tech to enter destinations while driving, but that feels more like punishment than enablement.   

US regulations don't speak specifically to this. The closest thing to a rule was a set of recently proposed voluntary guidelines (talk about qualifications!) that urge the auto industry to avoid scrolling text, photos, videos and excess numbers of screen touches that are not related to the driving task. The rules were still in discussion when the Trump administration took over and froze the progress of a lot of pending government regulations.


Sharp developed "parallax barrier" tech to allow cars like the Mercedes S Class to show separate images to driver and passenger via a single screen.


A few years ago it looked like we might solve the lockout issue with dual angle dashboard screens that show the driver one interface while showing the passenger another, based on their angle of view being about 90 degrees apart. Mercedes made the biggest splash with its SplitView brand of this Sharp tech, but it never really caught on beyond a few high-dollar cars (and I have a feeling most of those owners don't even use it).

The shining beacon in this despotic dashboard situation is Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi's recent announcement that it will hand over its center stack infotainment system to Android starting in 2021. This is more than offering Android Auto or Apple CarPlay as an optional choice, it means the entire infotainment stack will be natively running Google navigation, media and, most importantly, voice from key on to key off. 


Amazon's newest Echo is built for the car. It could be evolve to answer the frustration of car functions that are disabled on your dashboard screen while driving.


Amazon recently rolled out its first Echo device for the car which, over time, should grow to have deeper roots into the car's functions. 

Bottom line: I can't envision any carmaker wanting to be the first to say, "We've unlocked the screen so you can concentrate on using it while driving," so root for any movement that places the mobile voice platforms deep into the dash instead.