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December 5th, 2016 by


Everything in the word is getting smarter, including cars.

Both Apple and Android are working on their respective adaptations to in-car connectivity and infotainment. Namely with Android Auto and Car Play. Furthermore, the need to rethink the way we utilise automobiles, and how we interact with the outside world while inside our cars, is becoming paramount.

The Problem: Distracted Drivers

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration in the United States of America wants to find better ways of reducing the distractions we encounter while driving. Specifically those from our smartphones.

“As millions of Americans take to the roads for holiday gatherings, far too many are put at risk by drivers who are distracted by their cellphones,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx. “These common-sense guidelines, grounded in the best research available, will help designers of mobile devices build products that cut down on distraction on the road.”

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The Solution: Driver Mode

The proposed, voluntary guidelines are designed to encourage portable and aftermarket electronic device developers to design products that, when used while driving, reduce the potential for driver distraction. The guidelines encourage manufacturers to implement features such as pairing. Here, a portable device is linked to a vehicle’s infotainment system, as well as Driver Mode, which is a simplified user interface. Both pairing and Driver Mode will reduce the potential for unsafe driver distraction. Mainly by limiting the time a driver’s eyes are off the road. At the same time, however, preserving the full functionality of these devices when they are used at other times.

“NHTSA has long encouraged drivers to put down their phones and other devices, and just drive,” said NHTSA Administrator Dr. Mark Rosekind. “With driver distraction being 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.”

The hope is that these modes will automatically enable once you’ve gone over a certain speed. But, the problem is that, smartphones will not be able to determine whether you’re the driver or a passenger. This means that you’ll need to enable the mode manually.

It remains to be seen how handset manufacturers respond. It is also uncertain how insurance companies will take this proposal into account when working out premiums.

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Will driver mode ever reach South African smartphones?

It all depends on what happens in the United States of America, it seems.