Many U.S. states have laws prohibiting video screens that are visible to the driver. I suspect those laws would also apply to modifying a navigation system display to enable full motion video.
But what about information displays that are animated? Or photo slide shows that change images once every X seconds? I mention this only because a friend has such a display in her car. It's actually an aftermarket car stereo/DVD player with a color touchscreen display. When playing music, an animated background is displayed -- similar to many PC screen savers. Inserting an SD card containing images allows those images to be displayed instead.
The only driver distraction lockout feature in this unit is that DVD playback is disabled unless the parking brake is engaged -- a simple switch that could easily be relocated or permanently switched on by a consumer with minimal skill in electronics.
It's hard to imagine that some people want to watch video while driving, and think they can do so safely. But I think there are other more acceptable reasons to have a display that isn't completely static, and I wonder if our laws are sufficiently clear to recognize the distinction.
And yet, my RV multifunction NAV/entertainment unit in the dashboard will display full motion video while we are rolling the down the road. For instance, when I turn on the left turn signal, the camera on the left side of the coach automatically comes up on the display. Likewise for the right turn signal. And when you put it into reverse, the rear camera is displayed. My point being that if law makers are not specific about what types of full-motion video is displayed, then features that actually enhance safety may be prohibited. I'd wager in most states there are already statutes against distracted driving. Why do we need new laws from the Nanny State? Try as you might, you will never legislate personal responsibility.
I agree that there are some distracting displays already that the driver has access to. But it shouldn't be such an issue if the TV screen is visible to the front seat passenger, and not the driver. Just make it so the screen has to be swiveled to the passenger seat before it lights up with TV content.
As to TV audio, that should in principle be no more distracting than the radio. Much of TV can be followed with the audio only, so I wouldn't get all bent out of shape over this new controversy.
FWIW, I was somewhat transfixed on the status display of the Prius, when I rode in a Prius cab recently. Like Frank says, that could be pretty distracting too.
@Bert22306 & @Frank Eory: good comments! I agree that it doesn't make sense to think that drivers would drive and watch TV at the same time! Many cars and passenger vans already have flip-out displays (& back of headrest displays) where passengers watch some entertainment. This hasn't so far altered significantly the statistics on road accidents, seems to have fallen under the general 'distracted' driving category in the US.
I would like to extrapolate this argument to futuristic use cases, albeit not too distant. What about augmented reality displayed on GPS screens? How about future ones where the car windshields function as displays for GPS, augmented reality and perhaps some entertainment?
The main use case for front seat TV is for taxi drivers, who are stationary and waiting for customers, and for a passenger, whose screen is impossible to view from the driver's seat.
In the US there are laws that prohibit screen animation and video while the vehicle is in motion.
All the more reason to speed up the automation of the driving function of our cars. It may be possible to legislate away factory installation of front seat video, but it's probably one of the easiest things to get around at the moment. All you need is a tablet.
People will (and probably are already doing) do this. It's the nature of the human beast. So, part of the car engineer's job must be to make the automation more reliable and safer before too many people get crunched by such distractions.