Gov't wants phone makers to lock out most apps for drivers

November 23, 2016 by Tom Krisher
In this Wednesday, June 22, 2016, file photo, a driver uses her mobile phone while sitting in traffic in Sacramento, Calif. The government wants smartphone makers to lock out most apps when the phone is being used by someone driving a car. The voluntary guidelines unveiled Wednesday, Nov. 23, 2016, are designed to reduce crashes caused by drivers distracted by phones. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli, File)

The government wants smartphone makers to lock out most apps when the phone is being used by someone driving a car.

The voluntary guidelines unveiled Wednesday are designed to reduce crashes caused by drivers distracted by phones. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration also wants automakers to make infotainment systems easy to pair with smartphones.

Drivers could still make calls but the phones and automaker systems would lock out the ability to enter text. Internet browsing, video not related to driving, text from books, and photos also would be locked out. Navigation systems would be permitted, but with guidelines on how to avoid driver distraction.

Fatal crashes caused by distracted drivers are on the rise, and that's contributing to a spike in traffic deaths during the past two years. The government says 3,477, or about 10 percent, of the more than 35,000 traffic fatalities last year involved distracted drivers. That's up 8.8 percent over 2014. Traffic deaths spiked 10.4 percent in the first six months of this year and rose 7.2 percent last year, after years of declines.

"With driver distraction one of the factors behind the rise of traffic fatalities, we are committed to working with the industry to ensure that mobile devices are designed to keep drivers' eyes where they belong —on the road," NHTSA Administrator Mark Rosekind said in a statement.

Automakers already are moving this direction, with many offering Apple CarPlay and Android Auto that pair smartphones to car touch screens and allow limited use of the phone apps. NHTSA wants phone makers to develop technology that can determine if someone is driving a car and then disable most of the apps. But at present, that technology doesn't exist. In its absence, the agency wants phones to have a "driver mode" that would be activated by the smartphone user.

General Motors, for instance, has the Apple and Android pairing system in about 40 models worldwide. Already, it prevents use of many phone functions that could cause distraction, spokesman Vijay Iyer said. The system, he said, won't let drivers type a text message, but it does allow text by voice. "The fundamental direction is to keep your hands on the wheel, eyes on the road and minimize distraction and offer up other means of interaction, primarily voice," he said.

NHTSA will take public comment for 60 days before deciding whether to put the guidelines in place. Unlike a federal government rule, auto and cellphone makers don't have to obey the guidelines.

Explore further: Feds: Ignore that post about banning driver cellphone use

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21 comments

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gkam
2 / 5 (9) Nov 23, 2016
Good idea!!

Anybody who has almost gotten creamed by a distracted driver will go for this one.
ab3a
5 / 5 (9) Nov 23, 2016
How would a phone differentiate between a driver and a passenger? Shouldn't passengers have full access to their phones?
Eikka
3 / 5 (2) Nov 23, 2016
Good idea!!

Anybody who has almost gotten creamed by a distracted driver will go for this one.


It's absolutely stupid idea. For example, if your navigation system doesn't know of a particular location and you have to use google maps or other online service instead, you're screwed. If you need to glance over a street name sent to you by text, you're screwed.

The other problem is, how do you practically detect when you are driving? If it's simply based on being on the move, then the passengers are unable to use their phones either. What sort of a sensor or algorithm would detect whether the user of a phone is actually driving a car?
gkam
2 / 5 (9) Nov 23, 2016
Keep concentrating on the phone while you are driving, Eikka.

It's a great idea.
LED_Guy
5 / 5 (1) Nov 23, 2016
Sounds like a great idea, but how do you actually implement it?

Smart phones have had an "airplane mode" for years, but about half the time when I'm flying I hear someone's phone ring (incoming call) between the time the doors close (and all phones are supposed to be in airplane mode) and the time we take off.

For example, if your navigation system doesn't know of a particular location and you have to use google maps or other online service instead, you're screwed. If you need to glance over a street name sent to you by text, you're screwed.


Presumably if you're lost and need to enter an address into a mapping app you have pulled over stopped. If you haven't then you are a HUGE part of the problem.

We're in agreement though that it is a stupid idea that in all likelihood can't be implemented.
gkam
1.6 / 5 (8) Nov 23, 2016
"that in all likelihood can't be implemented."
-----------------------------

As far as you know.
dogbert
5 / 5 (1) Nov 23, 2016
NHTSA wants phone makers to develop technology that can determine if someone is driving a car and then disable most of the apps. But at present, that technology doesn't exist.


Impractical. How are my phone apps supposed to know that:
1) I am in a car.
2) The car is moving.
3) I am driving the car.
4) This app is prohibited.

The smart displays in modern cars require a lot more driver visual attention than older manual systems. The trend is for more driver interaction, not less.
TheGhostofOtto1923
3 / 5 (6) Nov 23, 2016
"that in all likelihood can't be implemented."
-----------------------------

As far as you know.
Hey mods I thought that flooding your site with inane 1 line posts was against company policy.
tear88
2.3 / 5 (3) Nov 23, 2016
I don't get all the skepticism. It should be a simple tweak to apps - including the phone app itself. Unfortunately, it'll mean the blithely homicidal a**holes will be even more oblivious to their murderous ways as they shriek at their sleeping phone.
antialias_physorg
5 / 5 (4) Nov 23, 2016
Ya know...if governments would, in return, agree to be locked out of my phone and all data that goes through it (including metadata)...I'd be all over THAT deal*

*and I find it scary that I even have to WISH for something like this. The world - especially people and organizations with power - are totally insane.
gkam
1.7 / 5 (6) Nov 23, 2016
Titanpointe

It's too late, AA.
carbon_unit
3.7 / 5 (3) Nov 23, 2016
How would a phone differentiate between a driver and a passenger? Shouldn't passengers have full access to their phones?

Or the driver's phone if they are assisting in the navigation task or just need to use it in any manner.
Impractical. How are my phone apps supposed to know that:
1) I am in a car.
2) The car is moving.
3) I am driving the car.

Define 'driving'. I should not be locked out when stopped in traffic.
3a) I am using my phone (as opposed to a passenger.)

4) This app is prohibited.

For many apps, I guess it will be trivial to label prohibited, but there will edge cases where a non-navigational/phone app will be used unconventionally to assist navigation. Specialized web pages. Photos of the destination. Texted information.

Also a bit bothersome from a slippery slope point of view.
24volts
5 / 5 (1) Nov 24, 2016
Just don't pair your phone with the car system. That will probably defeat the system or have an old phone or older car that doesn't have all the gadgetry in it.

Personally I would prefer people simply wouldn't use them when driving. I ride a recumbent trike for most of my transportation and I get really tired of ducking idiots on phones. I have to spend as much time looking in my mirror at what car drivers behind me are doing as I do looking forward half the time.
antialias_physorg
5 / 5 (3) Nov 24, 2016
In germany it's forbidden to use your phone in traffic (you can be fined and will get in deep trouble if records show you used it during a crash). I find this sensible.
That way there's no point in asking manufacturers to prohibit apps.

When you drive you should keep your eyes on the road and not text, eat, do your makeup, whatever. If you need navigation info use a navigation system. They're dirt cheap.
dogbert
5 / 5 (1) Nov 24, 2016
antialias_physorg,
If you need navigation info use a navigation system.


Why would you not use the navigation system in your phone? It is probably much better than any system built into your car.
glennpierce
5 / 5 (1) Nov 24, 2016
This is a ridiculous solution.
Why not put the feature in the car. Ie a camera in the steering wheel looking whether your eyes are on the road.
If your gaze shifts for too long it could beep or do something more drastic like putting the car in limited operation mode which cars already have. It could also check for tiredness.
antigoracle
3 / 5 (2) Nov 24, 2016
I wonder how these accident numbers compare with other countries?
It's not the phone stupid, it's the American retard behind the wheel. So, this idea is doomed to fail, because you try to make something fool proof and they will just make a "better" fool,
gkam
1 / 5 (5) Nov 25, 2016
anti is right about one thing so far, and it regards the inability of making anything foolproof. Humans are the best fools of all. Haven't all of us done at least one thing we now think was unwise?

That is why I object to nuclear powerplants. Chernobyl and Fukushima have shown us the real proof.
ForFreeMinds
not rated yet Nov 27, 2016
"Government wants" tells you enough to reject this idea. There's no end to the number of things that can distract a driver, and they even wanted to ban radios in cars when that came out.

There are already laws that hold people responsible for harm they do to others, including automobile accidents. Now if auto insurance providers want to give you a discount for implementing such technology on your phone, let them lead on it. Insurers are more focused on costs and benefits than government, which is more focused on control.
BendBob
not rated yet Nov 29, 2016
The Public wants Gov't law makers tostop using apps inside Washington D. C. and do some work for the Public.
rrrander
Dec 13, 2016
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