Smart­phone mak­ers urged to lock out most apps for driv­ers

Guide­lines de­signed to re­duce crashes

Kuwait Times - - TECHNOLOGY -


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. — AP

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