U.S. Safety Regulators Propose ‘Driver Mode’ For Smartphones


According to suggestions put forth by the United States Department of Transportation on Wednesday, smartphones like Apple’s iPhone or Samsung’s Galaxy devices should be able to detect when they’re being used by a vehicle’s driver and limit functionality.

apple on roadThe recommendation, suggested by the U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) would render a driver’s mobile phone unable to perform a large majority of its functions under a “driver mode” – a restricted access setting which would only permit the use of GPS and music applications.

The intention is to reduce the increasing toll of road deaths and injuries accountable to smartphone-based distractions such as social media, texting, and of incoming calls. The restrictions would not apply to the phones of passengers in the car, but only the driver, according to a report by the New York Times.

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

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration doesn’t have the power to enforce specific rules but it does put out guidelines, which are generally followed. And many of the items it’s suggesting, are already in place.

For example, iPhones can connect to a car’s information/entertainment system through CarPlay, while both Android and Windows phones have a driving mode option designed for a cleaner, distraction-free interface.

Still, disabling functions based on usage is a very delicate and complicated problem. How can the phone recognize it’s being used by the driver and not by a passenger? Likewise, how can a car’s infotainment system limit usage on the driver’s smartphone alone, without affecting other devices?

There is still much to learn about this “driver mode” initiative and whether it will indeed be implemented in the future.

In Canada, distracted driving is a huge problem and provinces have implemented stiff fines to address the problem, but more awareness campaigns and education on the matter is needed.


  • Mario Gaucher

    I’M a heavy smartphone user… and I think that this is a great idea if there’s a way to do it properly.

  • Jay

    but unfortunately there is no way of doing it properly…
    no way of knowing if the user is the driver or not.
    We cant stop darwinism.

  • Mario Gaucher

    bluetooth low energy might be useful in this case.
    Door lock manufacturer (like Weiser) can detect if the phone is inside or outside. Cars manufacturers are already able to detect if the car key is inside or outside of the car… also, if your forget your key in the car’s trunk, it won’t lock itself.
    I think it’s jut a matter of refining this technology to make it fool proof…

  • Dehop

    It’s Darwinism only if the culprit offs themselves, not if they (also) kill or maim innocents.

  • aRhyno

    It will be hard to implement anything like this. People will just reach their hands over to the passenger side to text and such which will cause more distraction. Unless they shut down cell phone usage in the whole car which I’m fine with. I think the phone should go into a “driver mode” when the user turns their car on and Bluetooth connects and the phone knows it connected to a car. Will people just turn Bluetooth off? Some will. But I think it would be an easy fix and people would be less likely to text if they don’t hear the text come in.

  • xxxJDxxx

    Forcing all new auto’s to be equipped with CarPlay and Android auto would be a good start.

    Easy to say just disable the phones when you’re only driving occasionally and/or dont use your phone for work. Some of us spend our entire day on the go moving from location to location and also need to be constantly available. Missed calls = missed business. A tough pill to swallow in this economy.