With the goal of reducing the serious risk posed by distracted drivers toying with their cell phones, the U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has proposed voluntary guidelines to manufacturers of phones and software. One of the key measurements involves a the creation of a “Driver Mode,” akin to the “Airplane Mode,” which shuts off wireless communication that might interfere with modern aircraft systems. In the same way, this “driver mode” would block or modify certain cell phone apps so that a motorist’s attention could stay on the road.
These voluntary guidelines were introduced amid news that traffic deaths over the last two years have increased sharply. Yes, part of that is due to falling gas prices and an improved economy, which has more people on the road. However, cell phone distraction is believed to be a substantial part of the problem. If drivers can’t be trusted to put the phones down on their own, then technology companies may need to step in and do it for them – not just for their own sake, but for the safety of those with whom they share the road.
The guidelines call on manufacturers of electronics, such as Samsung and Apple, to alter future operating systems in a way that curtails functionality and simplifies interfaces while the device is inside a vehicle that is moving. There are also requests to develop technology that would be able to determine when devices are being used by a motorist who is driving, while still allowing others who are in the vehicle full access to those features. Continue reading →