Auto Safety Regulators Seek a Driver Mode to Block Apps

Neal E. Boudette, reporting for the NYT:

The guidelines call on electronics manufacturers like Apple and Samsung to design future operating systems that limit the functionality and simplify interfaces while a vehicle is in motion and to develop technology to identify when the devices are being used by a driver while driving. That would ensure the limits are placed on drivers and not other vehicle occupants.

The new guidelines from N.H.T.S.A. are the agency’s first recommendations specifically for portable devices that are used while driving. The agency cannot force electronics companies to comply, but in the past it issued a set of guidelines for the navigation and entertainment systems built into cars by the manufacturer and carmakers adopted them, for the most part. […]

A driver mode would present a simplified interface and detect when the device is being used by a driver. In this mode, a smartphone would block any video or distracting graphics; eliminate scrolling text; and prohibit keypad use for texting or email. Any social media content or content from web pages like news reports should be blocked as well, the guidelines say.

In theory, this is a great idea that I would support wholeheartedly. Studies suggest that drivers distracted by their phones are more dangerous than those who are intoxicated by alcohol. But how could it work? A phone with GPS can detect when it’s moving at a high speed, but how could you detect that the phone belongs to the driver of the vehicle, and not a passenger?

Blocking everyone — drivers and passengers alike — from using their phones in a moving vehicle is not going to fly. The only solution I can think of is to greatly increase the penalties for causing an accident while using your phone. We greatly decreased incidents of drunk driving the same way — serious legal penalties, combined with making the act socially unacceptable.

Monday, 28 November 2016