Phone Makers Asked to Modify Devices to Cut Driver Distraction

Phone Makers Asked to Modify Devices to Cut Driver Distraction

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U.S. safety officials called on smartphone makers to add features that would keep motorists from using functions linked to a surge in deaths due to distracted driving, a proposal that drew immediate opposition from the electronics industry, according to Bloomberg. Proposed voluntary guidelines ask device makers to take steps such as blocking some video displays and preventing manual text entry while vehicles are under way.

"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."

Among the ways the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said manufacturers can meet the guidelines is to create a “driver mode” that limits functions when a vehicle’s transmission moves to "drive” from "park.” It  said maps could continue to be displayed on a phone for navigation. The Consumer Technology Association, a trade group whose members include top smartphone makers Apple and Samsung, characterized the guidelines as “extreme.”

The response from carmakers, which have been criticized for adding electronic distractions to vehicles, was more positive. Ford is still reviewing the proposal but is "encouraged NHTSA is looking at multiple factors beyond the vehicle to address driver distraction," said Elizabeth Weigandt, a spokeswoman for the automaker. The Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, with members including Ford, General Motors and Toyota, “will carefully review these guidelines,” Wade Newton, a spokesman for the trade group, said in an e-mail.

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