Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

Business

February 24, 2011

Delphi readies drivers for statewide texting bans

If texting ban passes, Kokomo company’s market could grow

A possible statewide cell phone restriction, combined with similar laws in 30 other states, could create a better market for Delphi Electronics & Safety.

The Indiana Legislature is considering banning drivers from texting while they’re behind the wheel.

The state House of Representatives approved a bill in late January that would ban drivers from texting while driving. The state Senate, where a similar bill died last year, awaits a hearing on the bill.

Violators would face an infraction and fines that could reach as high as $500 if the state law passes.

The bill was something Delphi predicted several years ago would happen, said Bob Schumacher, the company’s general director of advanced product and business development.

So the Kokomo subsidiary of Delphi Automotive developed one of its most recent products partially in response to the pending change in driving laws.

“When I heard this legislation was coming out, I just smiled,” Schumacher said. “We knew it was coming.”

In 2010, Delphi unveiled a connectivity platform for smart phones, Schumacher said.

The market for cell phone-related technology in vehicles is going to grow as more states begin enforcing laws related to talking on cell phones and texting while driving, said Richard Wallace, the director of the Transportation Systems Analysis Group for the Center for Automotive Research.

Beyond Bluetooth

A simpler Bluetooth connection device designed by Delphi debuted in Audis in 2010. But the company already has competition from Ford Motor Co. and General Motors in a growing market related to more complex smart phone platforms.

Delphi’s connection device removes standard dash panel features, including radios. In their place, drivers can plug in their iPhones, BlackBerries and other smart phones. The connection device speaks to the vehicles with Bluetooth and WiFi. Phones’ applications then project onto a touch screen in the center of the dash console, where radios and temperature controls would normally be.

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