Apple to Disable Phone Features for Drivers

John Lister's picture

Apple is to introduce a safe driving mode to stop drivers being distracted by their phone. The mode aims to maximize safety without taking all usability away.

The changes follow a lawsuit against Apple by the parents of a child killed in a car crash. The driver responsible for the crash had been using FaceTime video calling while driving at 65 miles per hour. The parents said Apple shared some responsibility, as it had developed technology to prevent FaceTime from working in a moving car, but chose not to use it.

The new mode will debut with iOS 11, an update that will be distributed to the iPhone 5 and later. The mode is named "Do Not Disturb While Driving" and is effectively a souped-up version of the "Do Not Disturb" mode that users can enable on many phones.

Mode Can Be Switched Off

Users can choose to have the feature permanently disabled. If they don't, it will automatically switch on when the phone connects to Bluetooth in the car, or if the phone detects that it is in a moving car. If the mode switches on, users will be able to turn it off with a single tap - for example, if they are a passenger rather than the driver. (Source:

There will be two main effects of the mode being turned on. The first is that notifications and alerts will be switched off. Users can opt to have the phone automatically respond to any incoming text messages or phone calls with a pre-written message. It's also possible to set exceptions - for example, by allowing calls from a specific number to come through.

Maps Will Still Work

The second effect is that most touch screen input will be blocked. Navigation tools such as Apple Maps will still work, but it won't be possible to type in a destination while the mode is on. (Source:

"Do Not Disturb While Driving" can work alongside an existing feature named Apple CarPlay, which allows voice controls, can reads messages out loud, and displays information on a large screen on the car dashboard so that users can see it more easily and not spend time squinting at a phone screen. The difference is that the new feature simply needs the phone, whereas Apple CarPlay only works on specific compatible cars.

What's Your Opinion?

Has Apple got the balance right in introducing this new feature? Should it have given users the option to switch off or disable the mode? Will it be something that's only used by responsible drivers anyway?

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Dennis Faas's picture

These are great ideas to be implemented, however I'm wondering if Apple has settled the lawsuit with the parents in the aforementioned article? If not, would these announced changes basically admit Apple is partially responsible for the fatal crash?

I spent a few minutes in the Google Play store trying to find an app that can automatically turn on my Bluetooth and have it connect to my car, should it detect that my phone is in a moving vehicle - but could not find any. I emailed the author of "Bluetooth Auto Connect" and asked if they could implement such a feature, as I think this would be a very good way to enable hands free without having to turn Bluetooth on 24/7 (which also drains the battery).

mtjoy747_5713's picture

If a user of a phone chooses to have it in the car (or their parents tell their kid to have it in the car and ON at all times), chooses to have it ON when driving, and the phone rings, resulting in a crash, do we blame the phone manufacturer?

If I was building a phone to work alongside self-driving cars, the user would NOT be able to answer a call or text until they were out of the car, and the phone un-linked from the self-driving car. But would the Emergency services people appreciate this "feature"?

In NZ, the director of a bus company wanted people to watch where they were going, when crossing a busy street while listening to the humble iPod.

Then HE got hit by one of his own buses, when HE did not follow what he said.

Is the iPod at fault, is Apple at fault, or is the user at fault, for getting hit by a bus while not looking while distracted by the music from an iPod?

matt_2058's picture

I'm glad to see Apple do something to help with the craziness. They patented the tech (according to the 4Jan InfoPackets article) and are now doing something good with it. I like it. People use 'Do Not Disturb' for many reasons, but driving isn't usually one of them. I just ignore the text notifications when driving so calls can still come through. It would be interesting to see some data on usage after it's on the streets for a little while.

Just one question.....can parents implement this on their children's phones, like a parental controls function activated through the provider account interface?

kitekrazy's picture

Is it really that difficult to not use a phone while driving?

ted_4434's picture

People who are not responsible are not likely to take advantage of the new features anyway. In my state it is illegal to text and drive as well as to drive while being on the phone unless it is connected by Bluetooth and the driver uses a cordless microphone and speaker system. Many of these systems are built into cars today and for the cars that do not have them built in, wireless systems are quite inexpensive now. You wouldn't believe how many people I see driving while holding their cell phones to their ears even after the new law has been passed. I have yet to see the police pull anyone over and ticket them.

The law that prohibits drivers from texting and driving has been in effect for several years now and I haven't heard of anyone being stopped by the police.

I don't believe that Apple should be held even partially responsible for the accident mentioned. People need to take responsibility for their actions. And people in this country need to stop being so sue happy. It is a tragedy, but come on people, who really DID the wrong action here?