After spending years talking about its commitment to reducing distracted driving, smartphone manufacturer Apple earlier this month unveiled an enhanced "do not disturb" mode in its upcoming iPhone operating system.
The new do not disturb mode, due for release this fall, will be able to automatically sense when you are in a moving vehicle and then shut off all incoming notifications. The system will also reply to incoming texts with an automated message stating that the recipient is behind the wheel and unavailable.
"It's all about keeping your eyes on the road," the head of Apple's software engineering said. "When you're driving, you don't need to respond to these kinds of messages. In fact, you don't need to see them."
Not totally foolproof
While the feature is a great leap forward in limiting the distractions that smartphones can cause for drivers, they are still technically optional. The first time users get into a car after firing up the new operating system, the phone will ask if they want to turn on "do not disturb while driving mode." The user can choose not to engage the feature.
Additionally, while the mode will automatically respond to incoming texts, if the person trying to send the text is one of the driver's "favorite" contacts, the notifications will break through to the driver.
Because of these two ways to get around the new do not disturb mode, it remains to be seen how big of an affect this will actually have on distracted driving. While it is a good faith effort, would it not be better if the phone would just automatically stop all incoming notifications?
Distracted driving still a large problem
In Virginia, it is against the law to text while driving; however, it is not illegal to talk on a smartphone or to use the GPS on the phone while the vehicle is in motion. This could make it easy for someone to tell a police officer that they were not actually texting, even if that is what the officer thinks they saw.
As smartphones become more intertwined with our lives, manufacturers will have to continue to find new ways to limit distractions to drivers. What do you think should be done?