The state of Idaho has recently passed a texting while driving law. Under the law, drivers may be fined for texting on cellular phones while driving. Okay, instantly, that generates a big question: What does that have to do with GPS tracking? As it stands, how this issue is resolved may come to redefine the GPS tracking industry, at least at the consumer level.
If it wasn’t for Steve Jobs, things probably would have been just fine. In the early oughts, GPS tracking devices were the big thing in automobiles. The handy devices attached to the dashboard of your car, downloaded proprietary software, connected with GPS tracking satellites in the sky, and provided clear and correct directions that anyone could understand. The devices would even speak to you, telling you where to turn and when.
Then the iPhone came along. It was more than just a phone, more than just a gadget: It was a true handheld computer with functionality never before dreamed of at the consumer level. They even included built in GPS functionality.
The iPhone signaled the smart phone revolution. Android and Windows-based smart phones soon followed, all with included GPS tracking. Soon, nobody needed a GPS in their car. Their cell phones did the navigation for them.
The Down Side
But with great power came great irresponsibility. With the smart phone revolution, the volume of text messages sent from cell phones worldwide exploded. Suddenly, everyone was texting. Everyone was texting while driving. Everyone was texting while driving, and it caused accidents, deaths that never should have occurred. Where the single biggest road killer used to be drunk driving, texting while driving suddenly became a deadly epidemic.
Laws were enacted at the state level banning “distracted driving,” the banner under which texting while driving, talking on the phone while driving, etc. come under. In some states, texting while driving became a felony equal to drunk driving.
Smart Phones, GPS, and the Law
But then came a paradox: smart phones can be used as GPS navigation devices, just as those now largely obsolete GPS trackers used to. They have legitimate functionality for drivers on the road. And thus the key question in the consumer GPS navigation industry was revealed: Can smart phones be used as GPS tracking devices on the road, or should they be banned?
In Idaho and beyond, this is the legal question that might change who makes GPS tracking devices in the future: cell phone manufacturers or proprietary navigator manufacturers.