Sen. Jay Rockefeller Jabs Mazda in Push to Limit Auto Tech

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mazda6_01With great exposure comes great responsibility. At least that’s how Senator Jay Rockefeller (D-W. Va.) sees it with respect to automakers and the technology they market as part of attractive vehicle packages. Citing a Mazda (MAZDF.PK) ad that ran during Super Bowl XLVIII, Bloomberg reports Sen. Rockefeller warned of grave dangers of connecting to Facebook (NASDAQ:FB) and other programs while behind the wheel, and said the government would step in if tech and auto companies didn’t act first.

There was no mistaking the seriousness in the five-time Senator’s intentions. Feeding off statistics that cite driver error as the cause of 90 percent of crashes, Rockefeller implored Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL), Google (NASDAQ:GOOG), GM (NYSE:GM), and other companies in attendance to address the issue before lawmakers pursued regulations that set definitive standards in the area of connected car safety, Bloomberg reports. Rockefeller had convened the forum in Washington, D.C., to address the issue head-on.

During the Mazda ad that caught the senator’s attention, the driver scrolls through a dashboard display that includes Facebook, Twitter (NYSE:TWTR), and other Internet-enabled apps. Rockefeller suggested automakers were downplaying the safety risks involved with distracted driving in hopes of reeling in more young customers for their cars and trucks.

“For teenagers, [using Facebook while driving] is a way of being cool,” Rockefeller said. “For those of you who sell cars, it’s a way of you being cool and making a lot of money from that.” Rockefeller took the approach auto safety regulators often take before a recall — offering the respective industries an opportunity to get out in front of safety concerns. Failing the “carrot” approach, the “stick” method would follow.

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