In an important move designed to tackle driver distraction caused by mobile phone use while driving, Apple announced yesterday that their latest operating system for iOS11 will contain a new “do not disturb while driving” mode. The new measure, announced at the Apple Developer Conference yesterday, has already been hailed as one that will save lives across the world and is likely to prompt Google to roll out a similar mode for Android devices.

Apple already know when a device is in a moving vehicle, connected to Bluetooth or a cable to the car, so the mode can turn itself on automatically without needing to be prompted. This mode also impacts iPhone users who are passengers too, who can disable the mode following a set process.

 

Do Not Disturb While Driving Mode will block all notifications (including texts, WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger) and incoming calls if not connected to an in-car phone system. It will also lock the screen so a driver is unable to access ANY apps while moving.

A small handful of apps WILL work while driving, Google and Apple Maps will function, but you will be unable to input a new destination or change the search in Maps while still in motion. Some large app companies that deliver transportation services have expressed concerns that this creates a monopoly on driver attention if only a few apps can work on iPhones.
Users also have the option of setting up an auto reply so that if anyone calls or contacts you while driving, it automatically sends a message by text or messaging platform to say that you are driving and unable to respond now, try later.

 

The announcement follows a legal case 6 months ago where Apple was sued for not providing a do not disturb mode and a fatal accident occurred while someone was on Facetime while driving. Almost 25% of all fatal US road accidents are caused by mobile phone use and it’s on the rise.

Research published by the British Medical Journal link: (http://www.bmj.com/content/331/7514/428) shows that 60% of all accidents last year involved at least one driver using a mobile phone for a call or text, which is a huge reason why the police are getting tough on penalty points and fines for mobile phone use at the wheel.

I guess the first question on our minds is how long has Apple has taken to do this and why do it now? It doesn’t seem likely that they will be introducing this mode just because of one court case 6 months ago. It seems far more plausible that Apple can see that as the rate of accidents caused by mobile phone use rises, perhaps to the 60% rate of the UK, they need to put this feature in now to avoid any legal cases held against them in the years to come.

It will undoubtedly save some lives, but if passengers can easily get past the mode then what is the point, as some drivers will just pretend to be passengers surely? Isn’t this more of a gesture rather than a zero tolerance “iPhones will not operate when a vehicle is moving”

It also opens a wider issue about whether Google will follow Apple’s lead and roll out a similar mode on their operating system. Also will we start to see car manufacturers employ similar restrictions on their new app based dashboard consoles?

What do you think about this announcement? Is it great news and long overdue or do you think it’s just Apple trying to avoid big legal challenges in the future? Will Google follow and will it make car firms restrict in-car systems the same way? Let us know in the comments below.

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