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Regulators Ask Smartphone Manufacturers To Reduce Driving Accidents

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) proposed new guidelines that would ask smartphone makers to reduce driving accidents. Although the guidelines wouldn't be enforced by the federal government, as each state legislates its own drivers, the NHTSA's plea could still convince manufacturers to act. If it does, those companies might want to look to the VR and AR industries in their search for a solution to this deadly problem.

The agency said 10% of the 35,092 fatal traffic accidents in 2015 resulted from distracted driving; another 16% of non-fatal collisions involved at least one driver whose eyes weren't on the road. The NHTSA wants smartphone companies to work together with automobile manufacturers to create systems that would prevent drivers from texting, watching videos, or otherwise using their phones while their attention should be on the road.

The NHTSA called the change Driver Mode. It proposed two options for enabling this feature: Automatically detecting when a vehicle is moving faster than 5mph, or requiring drivers to manually activate the tool, much like they do with the Airplane Mode that comes standard with today's smartphones. Both have their drawbacks. Automatic detection could fail to distinguish between drivers and passengers, and drivers might never manually activate the tool.

"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."

But what if companies used some of the technologies upon which VR, AR, and mixed-reality experiences rely? Systems could track someone's position within a vehicle, for example, to determine whether or not someone is trying to use a smartphone while they're in the driver's seat. This would allow Driver Mode to automatically turn on without frustrating anyone who wants to do something with their phone while somebody else is driving the vehicle.

Another option would be to include eye-tracking within the smartphone itself. The NHTSA said in its proposal that people look away from the road for 23 seconds on average when they send or receive a text message. That's about one-third of a mile if the vehicle is moving at 55mph, and with almost half a million people using their phones while driving at any given time, that means a large portion of U.S. roads are being traversed by distracted drivers.

The agency wants drivers to divert their attention from the road for no more than two seconds at a time; it also wants concrete tasks, like picking a song, to take no more than 12 seconds to complete. Eye-tracking technologies would make it easier to enforce those guidelines. Instead of banning activities outright, Driver Mode could make it so the display can only be viewed for two-second intervals before a driver is told to pay attention.

Such a setup could offer a compromise between automatic detection and manual activation. Drivers could be given a choice between having certain tasks disabled while their vehicle is in motion or using eye-tracking to limit how long their attention is diverted, for example, or by having their phone automatically enter Driver Mode if nobody else is in the vehicle but require manually turning it on if more than one person is using their phone.

All of these systems are likely to be more capable thanks to the surge in popularity of VR, AR, and mixed reality. Companies might not invest a lot into position-tracking or eye-tracking if they weren't trying to enable more immersive experiences, for example, and trying to fit all these systems into a small room or into an HMD itself means they could easily fit into all but the smallest of vehicles. Tech is a distraction; it might also be a life-saver.

The NHTSA is seeking comment from the public, the automotive industry, and smartphone manufacturers on its proposal. The comment period will last 60 days after the guidelines are published to the Federal Register, and all submissions will be made available on the Regulations.gov website. The agency did not say when it expects to publish the official version of the guidelines, nor when it would like companies to heed its advice on this problem.

  • mspencerl87
    Why not ask food makers to stop making people fat?
    Or why not ask automobile makers to ask teachers to stop making people stupid?
    Reply
  • surphninja
    By the time this technology can be perfected and rolled out, no one will be driving cars.
    Reply
  • jonny27
    I don't get what's so hard about doing what almost every other country already does, and prohibit using the phone while driving.
    Reply
  • Hellcatm
    Wouldn't it have been better to ask the companies that make the OS. Really what are the phone manufacturers going to do? Add more shit to their already crappy skin? Sure they can some how make it so when you're in the car your phone doesn't work but if they do that then the passenger wouldn't be able to use their phone. There are apps for your phone when you're in the car that have big buttons for the functions you need but I'm guessing people don't use them. Also Google doesn't have voice texting built in, you need to download an app that will help you with it and its still not great. Windows Phone's approach was much better. You get a message, it asks if you want to read it, you say yes it reads it and asks if you want to reply, if you say yes it lets you reply and then send. So if you have your phone connected to a headset or bluetooth device it would do this automatically.
    Reply
  • targetdrone
    Typical Leftist nonsense. Go after an inanimate object and not the stupid, irresponsible "people" that are unfit to live in society because they cause death, destruction, and mayhem instead.
    Reply
  • targetdrone
    18907015 said:
    I don't get what's so hard about doing what almost every other country already does, and prohibit using the phone while driving.


    Yeah I'm sure that works as well as posting signs that you're not allowed to drive above 55 miles per hour.
    Reply
  • targetdrone
    The agency said 10% of the 35,092 fatal traffic accidents in 2015 resulted from distracted driving; another 16% of non-fatal collisions involved at least one driver whose eyes weren't on the road..


    How many of those accidents were caused by people on their phones vs other forms of distracted driving, like changing the radio station, futzing with the GPS, swigging a Big Gulp in one hand while eating a meat ball sub in the other, putting on make-up or day-dreaming?
    Reply
  • PC-Cobbler
    "people look away from the road for 23 seconds on average when they send or receive a text message ... it also wants concrete tasks, like picking a song, to take no more than 12 seconds to complete""

    12 seconds is 1/2 23 seconds and that's the limit the NHTSA wants to establish? Imagine how many school children could be killed in 12 seconds, let alone 23.

    Research has proven that texting while driving is worse than DUI with respect to response time. Make the penalties for texting the same as for DUI, with no plea bargains allowed. Allow police officers to stop someone for suspected texting.
    Reply
  • jonny27
    18907077 said:
    Yeah I'm sure that works as well as posting signs that you're not allowed to drive above 55 miles per hour.

    As someone who lives in a country that enforces this, it does. Getting caught talking on the phone or texting grants you an instant 125€ fine minimum, and we have a low count of accidents by distraction. Hands free car kits are obviously allowed, and encouraged to use.
    Reply
  • anbello262
    18906928 said:
    Why not ask food makers to stop making people fat?
    Or why not ask automobile makers to ask teachers to stop making people stupid?

    Because being fat only kills you. Driving while texting kills other innocent people.
    Reply