Yes, Siri, you're legal for California drivers

12:41 AM, Jul 14, 2012   |    comments
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iPhone 4S

California's first-in-the-nation laws requiring drivers to use hands-free cell phone devices and banning texting are pretty well known by now.

But unclear, say some, was whether hands-free dictation systems, from built in systems to the iPhone's Siri, are kosher.

That kind of new tech confusion is what led to Assembly Bill 1536, signed into law Friday morning by Gov. Jerry Brown.

So Siri, you're good to go.

The bill, written by Assemblyman Jeff Miller, R-Corona, offers some clarity to laws on the books that, first put in place in 2008, predate the newer gadgets now on the market.

AB 1536's official legislative analysis says the bill makes clear that it's okay to use a device that's "specifically designed and configured to allow voice-operated and hands-free operation to dictate, send, or listen to a text-based communication."

Miller's staff won't say exactly which devices pass muster, though Siri and similar Droid devices seems to fit the bill, which helps explain why Silicon Valley's leading trade group was a key supporter of the bill.  So, too, were auto makers keen on clarification for built-in systems that allow dictation and read-back of emails and texts.

"As a father, husband and small business owner," said Miller in a press release two weeks ago when the bill was sent to Brown's desk, "I can relate to the frustration of many Californians who were unable to communicate with friends, family and business partners while driving because it is currently against the law to operate text based functions while driving."

While Brown's signing of the law probably means you're clear to summon Siri right away, keep in mind that as with all new statutes signed at this time of the year, the law doesn't actually take effect until January 1.


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