NHTSA Encourages Smartphone OEMs To Include ‘Driver Mode’ To Curb App Use While Driving

Leaving the home is about to become more dangerous than it already is. That's because the holiday shopping season is about to be kick into full swing, that means a combination of inattentive pedestrians looking down at their smartphones and distracted drivers wielding handsets behind the wheel. It makes for a potentially dangerous combination, and since vehicles have the potential to do the most damage, the U.S. Department of Transportation's National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has proposed that phone makers include a Driver Mode with a simplified interface.

The latest proposal is part of a collection of voluntary guidelines designed to reduce driver distraction caused by mobile devices and other electronics commonly found in today's vehicles. The first phase of the new initiative focused on devices and systems that are built into cars. Now in the second phase of making proposals, the NHTSA has turned its attention to driver distraction on U.S. roads.

Distracted Driving

"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," said U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx. "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."

"NHTSA has long encouraged drivers to put down their phones and other devices, and just drive," added NHTSA Administrator Dr. Mark Rosekind. "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."

The proposed Driver Mode would kick in when a handset is not able to be paired with a vehicle's infotainment system for whatever reason. NHTSA would prefer that it be automatically activated when pairing doesn't occur, though manual activation is encouraged as well.

In Driver Mode, a phone would feature a simplified interface and lock the user out of certain tasks and apps. All of the restrictions would be aimed at keeping the driver's eyes on the road as much as possible.

The full proposal is available to view in a 96-page PDF.