The NHTSA asks Samsung and Apple to block apps while driving
The NHTSA asks Samsung and Apple to block apps while driving. Photo: Elaine Thompson.

US Federal regulators are asking Apple (AAPL) and Samsung (SSNLF) to consider adding a “driver mode” that could block certain apps and features when the owner is behind the wheel.

As the New York Times first reported, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says it wants a “driver mode” with a simple interface that would minimize distractions to the driver whenever the user looks at the device.

The initiative came in the form of voluntary guidelines that will be out on Wednesday.

The document will arrive amid a rise in traffic fatalities during the last two years and widespread concerns about how smartphones distract Americans when they are driving.

How would the driver mode work?

The NHTSA recurs to smartphone makers to make highways safer. Image: NHTSA.
The NHTSA recurs to smartphone makers to make highways safer. Image: NHTSA.

When an iPhone or an Android phone enters the driver mode, the smartphone would not be able to access certain apps, especially social networks like Twitter, Snapchat or Facebook.

The keyboard would be off, so users could not send any text or emails. The camera would be off as well, so no photos, snaps or videos while driving.

There would also be a feature that prevents users from seeing graphics or scrolling down text on websites, chats or documents.

The regulators recommend the driver mode engages automatically by pairing the feature with a vehicle’s infotainment system. If there is none, users could turn it on manually.

Federal regulators assure device manufacturers could help reduce traffic accidents with these simple changes.

Fatal traffic accidents are on the rise

Official reports show a significant rise in fatal traffic accidents during the last two years. 2016 has seen 177,775 deaths on US roads alone, and the federal government is calling it a crisis.

There are hundreds of ways to find a distraction in a smartphone, and it seems like app developers want it that way. For example, nowadays every Map app syncs with the calendar and the contacts, so the users check and manage their schedules while driving.

Pokémon Go and driving already claimed one life in Japan. The accident involved a 39-year-old farmer who did not see two women crossing the street because he was playing the game.  He ran over both with a small truck and a 70-year-old woman died at the scene.

These new N.H.T.S.A guidelines are the agency’s first recommendations for smartphone use while driving. The federal organization cannot force tech companies to obey, but they already issued instructions, so car makers adopt the system into their navigation consoles.

Source: NY Times