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The Case For a Safer Smartphone

Soulskill posted about 5 months ago | from the everyone's-dangerous-behind-the-wheel-except-me dept.

Cellphones 184

itwbennett writes: "According to the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute, people who text and drive increase their chances of 'safety-critical events' by a multiple of 23.2. And new research is constantly rolling out, showing the same thing: 'We can't handle the visual, manual, and cognitive commitment of using a phone while driving,' writes blogger Kevin Purdy. What's needed, Purdy suggests, isn't more laws that will go ignored, but phones that know enough to stop giving us the distractions we ask them for: 'I think the next good phone, the next phone that makes some variant of the claim that it "Fits the way you live," needs to know that we don't know what is good for us when it comes to driving. We want to be entertained and shown new things while doing the often mundane or stressful task of driving. More specifically, those phones should know when we are driving, quiet or otherwise obscure updates from most apps, and be able to offer their most basic functions without needing to turn on a screen or type a single letter.'"

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184 comments

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Or people could stop being fucking dumbasses (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46737717)

but that would be too much to ask.

Human beings are not born with smartphone attached (4, Insightful)

Taco Cowboy (5327) | about 5 months ago | (#46737789)

The main problem is that we are human being, that we are *NOT* robot.

As human beings we are the product of millions of years of evolution - an evolution that did not encounter _any_ form of electronic gadgets until very recently.

The fact that we can drive a car (or any vehicles) is not because we *adapt* to the way the car operate, but it is another way around.

We engineer the vehicles so that they can become our tool, and the operation of that tool is *within* our range of capability.

While using cellphone (and now smartphone) have been accused of causing a lot of accidents, they are not the only distraction. Long before the advent of the cellphone, a lot of traffic accidents were caused by drivers adjusting their radio (either looking for station of turning up/down the volume), or adjusting the seat, or the air condition, or whatever.

It is thus evidenced that we human beings are not made to be effective "multi-tasking" device

And smartphones are not the only culprit - I have known drivers who were so distracted by their on-board sat nav devices such as tomtom (and other brands) they drove their car into poles, walls, and so on

Personally when I drive, I drive. If I have to adjust my seat, my mirrors, my radio, or whatever, I stop my car at the roadside (or any other safe place) to make the adjustment, and then continue my journey.

Re:Human beings are not born with smartphone attac (1)

Karmashock (2415832) | about 5 months ago | (#46738357)

there is nothing about a modern car that would be intuitive to a cave man.

We adapt to things all the time. Its part of being an intelligent animal.

Re:Human beings are not born with smartphone attac (1)

ifiwereasculptor (1870574) | about 5 months ago | (#46739103)

Arguably, we have not properly adapted to cars. Traffic accidents are consistently among the top 3 causes of death in a bunch of countries. So, reponding to the OP, we are fucking dumbasses and that's that. Of course, self driving cars seem to be a much better alternative to a phone that enters silent mode when being driven around. Solve "driving" and you atuomatically solve "phone use while driving".

Re:Human beings are not born with smartphone attac (1)

CheezburgerBrown . (3417019) | about 5 months ago | (#46739179)

Arguably, we HAVE properly adapted to cars. and we HAVE adapted to cellphones. We HAVE NOT adapted to using cars and the current iteration of cellphone simultaneously.

Self driving cars are nowhere in the near future. Not cars that will be able to self drive over the terrain in the U.S. anyway. I'd trust a 16 year old on a cellphone over a self driving car and roads that look like a battlefield here in Massachusetts.

If you can learn to put a beer down while driving, (5, Insightful)

geekmux (1040042) | about 5 months ago | (#46737735)

...you can learn to put a fucking cell phone down.

We don't need smarter apps to tell us to ignore a phone while driving.

We don't need smarter six-packs. Or smarter makeup. Or smarter food containers. All of these things should not be mixed while steering a ton of steel down the freeway.

We we need are smarter drivers on the road who fucking know better.

And I agree. We don't need more laws. What we need is more real consequences like jail time for offenders so that they may wise up. Clearly current methods are not working, and Darwin award winners in this case take innocent lives with them.

Re:If you can learn to put a beer down while drivi (4, Insightful)

timholman (71886) | about 5 months ago | (#46737805)

we need are smarter drivers on the road who fucking know better.

Here's the problem: we've tried to make people into better drivers since the automobile was invented. It hasn't worked. You can't change human nature.

People still drive drunk, they still drive distracted. The main reason fatalities have dropped is only because cars are safer.

We don't need smarter drivers. We need smarter cars ... or specifically, self-driving cars. Take the human entirely out of the equation, and only then will you see a real difference.

We'll have self-driving cars on the road long before anyone invents a smartphone that "knows what's good for you". And when that happens, the problem of distracted driving will become completely moot.

complete bullshit (2, Interesting)

Kohath (38547) | about 5 months ago | (#46738101)

It hasn't worked..

This is complete bullshit. Driving has been getting safer for 40 years [wikipedia.org] and the trend is even longer and more obvious if you report fatalities per mile driven [wikipedia.org] .

People still drive drunk

Drunk driving is down [dot.gov] , even if you use the inflated "alcohol related" numbers.

Re:If you can learn to put a beer down while drivi (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46738105)

Here's the problem: we've tried to make people into better drivers since the automobile was invented. It hasn't worked

No, actually we have not done that at all. What we've done is try to make our vehicles more crash-resistant and improve things like road markings and construction of the surfaces. But we still do nothing more than hand you a written test any idiot can pass, and give you a driving test a well-trained chimp can 'ace', and turn you loose on the roads.

As for the smartphones, the entire idea is just stupid, idiotic nanny-state bullshit. The people suggesting such things should be required to wear a smart catheter, so their car can check their bladder level before allowing them on the road, and a rectal probe to make sure a bowel movement is not imminent.

Human Nature? (3, Insightful)

AaronMK (1375465) | about 5 months ago | (#46738157)

I don't buy this "it's just human nature" argument.

The prevalence of cell phone use while driving is much greater than that of driving drunk. It is not because it is less of a "human nature". It is because there are stronger deterrents.

If people faced similar penalties to those of DUI (jail time, loss of driving privileges for extended periods of time, etc) for having their hands on the phone while driving, you can bet "human nature" would change accordingly.

Re:Human Nature? (2)

davester666 (731373) | about 5 months ago | (#46738341)

that's just it. somehow the idea's been altered from what actually distracts the driver.

the real problem isn't that the driver is holding the phone to their ear.

the problem is the conversation they are having.
if it's just a light, "about nothing" conversation, it doesn't totally kill your ability to focus on the road, but when it is about anything important, your brain switches to putting the conversation in the foreground for you, and driving goes into the background.

Re:Human Nature? (1)

DarwinSurvivor (1752106) | about 5 months ago | (#46738627)

So we should also outlaw conversations with passengers?

I am completely against holding a phone to your ear or texting while driving, but I feel that hands-free devices are fairly safe. As long as you aren't fiddling with them while trying to answer/make the call in the first place.

Re:Human Nature? (5, Informative)

davester666 (731373) | about 5 months ago | (#46738695)

not this stupid argument again.

the passengers have a vested interest in not distracting the driver. and in general, they don't. and they also tend to be looking around, and are likely to alert the driver when they notice a pedestrian in front of the car, or the car is drifting onto the shoulder or into the car in the next lane.

you can tell that it's happening when you are in the car, and you can't over the phone [or you just don't care].

Re:Human Nature? (2)

davester666 (731373) | about 5 months ago | (#46738719)

and just to follow up, yes, there are interactions between passengers and drivers that should be/are illegal while driving. having a big shouting argument with the driver. driver reaching around trying to settle down a screaming child.

if the object you were holding to your head wasn't a cell phone, just a block of wood, people would think it would be stupid to hold it to their head, but it wouldn't distract them from driving.

Re:Human Nature? (2)

CrimsonAvenger (580665) | about 5 months ago | (#46739055)

the passengers have a vested interest in not distracting the driver. and in general, they don't. and they also tend to be looking around, and are likely to alert the driver when they notice a pedestrian in front of the car, or the car is drifting onto the shoulder or into the car in the next lane.

So, the driver can't pay attention to the road while talking, but a passenger beside or behind him has no trouble at all paying attention to the road while talking?

In my experience, the passengers pay even less attention to the road than the driver, since they're not the ones behind the wheel....

Re:Human Nature? (2)

drinkypoo (153816) | about 5 months ago | (#46739089)

not this stupid argument again.

Thanks for making help slashdot grate.

the passengers have a vested interest in not distracting the driver. and in general, they don't.

Bullshit. They usually do distract the driver, because they're not in tune with driving. When you stop talking to concentrate on driving for a couple of seconds, your passenger is highly likely to say something else to see if you heard them, because people are self-important.

and they also tend to be looking around, and are likely to alert the driver when they notice a pedestrian in front of the car, or the car is drifting onto the shoulder or into the car in the next lane.

Also bullshit. They tend to distract the driver with bullshit concerns about drifting into the car in the next lane while the driver is moving over next to the line to avoid some jackass who's drifting over the line on the other side. The passenger doesn't have to be in tune with what the cars around them are doing, so they almost never are. The driver does have to. I know what some of the drivers around me are thinking about doing because I'm concentrating so hard on what is happening around me, and have a massive corpus of information on what cars will do next based on what they're doing now stored in my head — and I'm not focused on anything else. Because that car drifted a little left while the driver looked that way, I know they're thinking about merging, and I'm already plotting out an alternate route around them (because as usual, I am passing) before my passenger even knows that there's a potential issue.

you can tell that it's happening when you are in the car, and you can't over the phone [or you just don't care].

You could, if you were concentrating as hard on driving as the driver is. But you aren't.

Re:If you can learn to put a beer down while drivi (3, Interesting)

Joce640k (829181) | about 5 months ago | (#46738165)

we need are smarter drivers on the road who fucking know better.

Here's the problem: we've tried to make people into better drivers since the automobile was invented. It hasn't worked. You can't change human nature.

Yes you can, you just need to be tougher.

Start putting people in prison for a couple of weeks if you catch them texting/driving. No arguments, mandatory sentence for anybody caught red-handed. The word will soon go around.

Jail time doesn't dissuade gang-bangers (a lot of them enjoy being in prison) but it sure as hell dissuades normal people.

Or, send them to morgues...to look at some people who texted/drove. They need to know that it *does* have consequences.

Re:If you can learn to put a beer down while drivi (4, Insightful)

zephvark (1812804) | about 5 months ago | (#46738741)

Or we could cut off their hands! That would work, right? ...mandatory sentences, my ass. Haven't we had enough of "zero tolerance" rules already? They're much worse than the problems they purport to solve.

Re:If you can learn to put a beer down while drivi (1)

phantomfive (622387) | about 5 months ago | (#46738389)

Drunk driving has dropped a lot

Re:If you can learn to put a beer down while drivi (1)

GrumblyStuff (870046) | about 5 months ago | (#46738547)

Smarter transportation options?

Re:If you can learn to put a beer down while drivi (-1, Redundant)

UdoKeir (239957) | about 5 months ago | (#46737897)

We need enforcement of current laws. I have never, never, seen anyone pulled over for talking or texting on the phone. Let alone charged for it.

And if we're talking about context-sensitive devices, how about a car that extends a 4" spike from the steering wheel every time it sense you fscking around with your phone.

Re:If you can learn to put a beer down while drivi (4, Informative)

Joce640k (829181) | about 5 months ago | (#46738171)

We need enforcement of current laws. I have never, never, seen anyone pulled over for talking or texting on the phone. Let alone charged for it.

You need to go to Germany. The Autobahns are full of police cars. You can drive at any speed you like. Burn past one at 200mph? No problem.

Tailgate? Flash lights at people? Drive like a moron in any way and they'll be down on you like a ton of bricks.

Re:If you can learn to put a beer down while drivi (1)

markass530 (870112) | about 5 months ago | (#46738783)

well if you've never seen it, I guess it's never happened

Re:If you can learn to put a beer down while drivi (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | about 5 months ago | (#46739093)

Tailgate? Flash lights at people? Drive like a moron in any way and they'll be down on you like a ton of bricks.

Isn't flash-to-pass what they do in every civilized nation? If you're flashing someone in the passing lane in Germany, aren't they the ones at risk of the ton of bricks approach? Unlike the USA, where the cops will pull up behind someone in the fast lane, sit behind them for ages, then go ahead and pass them on the right and just drive on without ticketing the fucks?

Re:If you can learn to put a beer down while drivi (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46739251)

Isn't flash-to-pass what they do in every civilized nation?

Nope, that would be coercion ("Nötigung").

Re:If you can learn to put a beer down while drivi (1)

Joce640k (829181) | about 5 months ago | (#46738383)

how about a car that extends a 4" spike from the steering wheel every time it sense you fscking around with your phone.

Sounds good to me.

Re:If you can learn to put a beer down while drivi (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46738249)

The ultimate fix isn't more jail time [1], because you can toss a ton of people in jail, and there is a drunk texter right behind them. The ultimate fix is going to be autopiloted cars.

[1]: Well, unless you are a Corrections Corporations of America stockholder which is enjoying a stock rise that is actually better than Apple, percentage-wise.

Re:If you can learn to put a beer down while drivi (5, Insightful)

currently_awake (1248758) | about 5 months ago | (#46738279)

We need to teach rational thinking in school. Stop indoctrinating passive consumers and start training people to THINK about their environment. Of course then people would start questioning those in power, and that isn't wanted.

Re:If you can learn to put a beer down while drivi (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46738523)

" What we need is more real consequences like jail time for offenders so that they may wise up."
Agreed. We don't need apps. Whenever someone gets in a accident, see if they were on the air at the time and if they were, crucify them.

Re:If you can learn to put a beer down while drivi (2)

Antique Geekmeister (740220) | about 5 months ago | (#46739361)

We need cars to have safe places to hold the cell phone, possibly tied to the car's audio. While many modern cars have a USB connection to the car stereo and for recharging a cell phone, there is no safe place to deposit your cell phone so it can continue to give directions or be voice controlled. The result is a mad scramble to put your phone down somewhere in the right orientation so it will continue to give good directions. Or worse, flailing around to run your finger across the "accept this call" slider without crashing the car. That part is not helped by voice->text systems, or an ear bud.

Statistics (4, Insightful)

Dan East (318230) | about 5 months ago | (#46737739)

Until someone can explain to me how the number of accidents per million miles travelled has steadily declined for almost two decades, yet cellphones are supposedly causing people to drive like they're intoxicated or worse, I won't put much stock in these "safety-critical events" claims.

Re:Statistics (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46737877)

correlation != causation goes both ways. Just because overall accidents have declined doesn't mean that cell phones don't contribute. There have been other changes- new safety features in cars, improved road design to less high-risk areas, etc, and there could be other factors, such as perhaps people who play video games are less likely to get into an accident, and now we have more people who grew up with video games driving. There is far more going on than cell phone use
And honestly , how can looking at a screen instead of the road NOT increase your risk of accidents?

Re:Statistics (0)

sinij (911942) | about 5 months ago | (#46737913)

Well, this clearly means that it is safe to drink and drive.
 
What, no? Well then put the f*&$ing cellphone down while you drive.

Re:Statistics (1)

Kohath (38547) | about 5 months ago | (#46738113)

Easy. They keep redefining "intoxicated" closer and closer to perfectly sober. Even the slightest distraction is the same as being "intoxicated" when "intoxicated" is a half bottle of beer.

Re:Statistics (2)

hypergreatthing (254983) | about 5 months ago | (#46738177)

I'm fairly surprised that people who are so anti "distractions" via cell phones (even when stopped) claim it's such a huge distraction, that they overlook climate control and stereos as the number one fiddled with while driving "distraction".

Re:Statistics (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46738409)

I'm fairly surprised that people who are so anti "distractions" via cell phones (even when stopped) claim it's such a huge distraction, that they overlook climate control and stereos as the number one fiddled with while driving "distraction".

I'm an inexperienced driver. If I fiddle with the radio, I'll drift towards or over the lines. I can mash the presets without issue in low traffic situations, but I won't even have it on if I'm in close traffic. If I tried to send a text I'd kill someone - possibly myself. Most drivers are actually terrible - go through the rivers manual and see how many rules are being broken on an almost constant basis. Left turn signals? I know people that turn them on as they pivot the wheel left and brush past it. If they use it at all.

Re:Statistics (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46738483)

I'm fairly surprised that people who are so anti "distractions" via cell phones (even when stopped) claim it's such a huge distraction, that they overlook climate control and stereos as the number one fiddled with while driving "distraction".

I'm fairly surprised that people who are so anti "distractions" via cell phones (even when stopped) claim it's such a huge distraction, that they overlook climate control and stereos as the number one fiddled with while driving "distraction".

They can definitely be a distraction, but normally they have reasonably big knobs that can be identified by feel., at least the OEM things. Some aftermarket HUs are a disaster of button-mania...
For this very reason I really don't like the trend towards touchscreens as the operating interface for radio and CC that we see today, no way to find a button by feel.. Nor interfaces with a myriad of likesized/shaped buttons that you cant separate by feel (as many aftermarket HUs).

The HU in my car probably has more functions than 99% og the HUs out there, but it has just just 4 buttons (each a distinctive shape) and a rotary knob . (5 buttons, if you count the also pushable rotary knob. The stuff that's used on a daily basis are short, memorizable button sequences that you don't have to look at the screen to do. For more advanced things I either pull over (or do it before I set off) or hand the remote to a/the passenger.

And still, even with poorly designed interfaces I find it easier to be disciplined and only take glances at where my fingers are going when hunting for controls. while keeping the eyes mainly on the road and surroundings, than to maintain focused on traffic while having any kind of, other than utterly trivial, phone conversation.
So much of the info we get in a face to face conversation is removed by the phone link and it requires much more effort to 'get' what is being said over the phone than face to face. So my phone conversations (over hands free) in the car are usually limited to "Hi, I'm driving, I'll call you back."

Re:Statistics (2)

thegarbz (1787294) | about 5 months ago | (#46738539)

There's a reason for this. The button on the stereo doesn't move. In fact I can mute the stereo without even moving my hands, just push the button on the steering wheel using my thumb. Even on the old bomb car we have here using a stereo is intuitive. I have tactile feedback that can tell me which button I'm pressing and when I've pressed it without ever taking my eyes off the road. I'd also wager that your typical car has less buttons, or even less total functions than there are letters in the alphabet.

Now please tell me why you think that this is comparable distraction.

Re:Statistics (1)

hypergreatthing (254983) | about 5 months ago | (#46739147)

i'm going to respond to my own post for the 3 responses and say:
I guess you've never seen touch controls. The ones where you basically have to look at the display instead of fumble around for station buttons or knobs.

Re:Statistics (1)

thegarbz (1787294) | about 5 months ago | (#46738531)

Here's a thought, a trend doesn't need to reverse for it to be affected. Yes accident rates are declining. I'd wager they'd decline faster if people spent less time staring at their phones while driving.

But hey you know better than all the research right?

Re:Statistics (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46738629)

Yes, I do. I can drive equally well wide awake or alseep after 145 hours awake. I also drive as well after 4 shots of Jager as I do normally. With my first feature-phone, I could send text messages using one thumb, without ever having to look at the phone, or even think about how to push any particular letter.

The problem, as stated above (and probably below) is that ANYONE can get a drivers license.

Re:Statistics (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46738765)

You are like, ... ,.like, a ..., God!

Seriously, please stay off the roads my kids also drive on.

social problems (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46737745)

Why do we keep trying to solve this problem with technology? Until technology exists that only affects the driver, but not any of the passengers, this attempt is useless...And if this is advertised as a "feature" of the phone, it will be turned off. Sure, it might be nice, and might even save lives, but no one is going to put their phone down.

Time has come to programmatically disable features (0, Flamebait)

JoeyRox (2711699) | about 5 months ago | (#46737755)

I never thought I would be a person to advocate a law to restrict personal freedoms but I think it's time to require smartphone vendors to disable texting when driving speeds are detected. This is not about protecting people from themselves but about protecting other people [on the road]. Texting while driving is unbelievably dangerous. I'm sure someone can come up with way to differentiate a driver from a passenger so that passengers can still be permitted to text. If not then so be it.

Re:Time has come to programmatically disable featu (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46737809)

How would the phone differentiate between the driver and passengers? How about passengers on a train? I can't see how this would work without causing a huge swath of collateral damage.

A few ideas on detecting drivers vs passengers. (2, Interesting)

JoeyRox (2711699) | about 5 months ago | (#46737865)

One way would be turn on the phone's front camera when driving speeds are detected and use facial recognition algorithms to detect when the person is driving...for example one way would be to require the person to stare at the phone for a minimum amount of time...and also keep looking at the phone. Another method would be to require two-handed dexterity tests that can't be done while driving. I realize all of these might actually increase the risk from die-hard driving texters since it would distract them even more.

Re:A few ideas on detecting drivers vs passengers. (1)

SuperKendall (25149) | about 5 months ago | (#46737957)

one way would be to require the person to stare at the phone for a minimum amount of time...and also keep looking at the phone.

Yeah, pretty much no-one is going to not do that in a car, and if you have a dash mount for your phone it's quite easy.

Another method would be to require two-handed dexterity tests that can't be done while driving.

I can drive with my knees for very prolonged periods, other people would try the same.

Re:A few ideas on detecting drivers vs passengers. (3, Interesting)

tim_gladding (220795) | about 5 months ago | (#46737993)

Another method would be to require two-handed dexterity tests that can't be done while driving.

I'm pretty sure this would be in violation of some anti-discrimination laws. Not everyone even has 2 hands, after all.

Re:A few ideas on detecting drivers vs passengers. (2)

hypergreatthing (254983) | about 5 months ago | (#46738191)

ridiculous.
Your ideas are half baked at best.
Such a phone would
a) never sell
b) never work
c) two handed dexterity tests?
Let me fill you in on something. A lot of phones now a days can be voice activated.

Re:A few ideas on detecting drivers vs passengers. (2)

sumdumass (711423) | about 5 months ago | (#46738299)

A better way would be to just use the phone's blue tooth and pair it to the car. Allow the driver to enter a code and use the phone for keyless entry and such as an incentive. But just have the car tell the phone when to go into a relaxed mode or whatever when the vehicle is in gear and going over a certain speed.

There can be an override on the phone so if your a passenger, it doesn't matter and of course you can cancel the pairing. Most people will forget about the phone's features unless they want to make a call or text or whatever. But they won't feel the need to answer texts or phone calls so it will largely be transparent to them and avoid the most usages.

Re:Time has come to programmatically disable featu (-1, Troll)

Joce640k (829181) | about 5 months ago | (#46738193)

How would the phone differentiate between the driver and passengers?

It wouldn't, but SO FUCKING WHAT?

Pulling over to text/phone will add about 30 seconds to your journey.

They could even build special little texting areas on the freeways for people who really really can't wait.

How about passengers on a train?

Um, GPS.

Re:Time has come to programmatically disable featu (1)

DarwinSurvivor (1752106) | about 5 months ago | (#46738655)

How about passengers on a train?

Um, GPS.

Do you have any idea how quickly GPS murders a cellphone battery? If I had to have that on every time I was carpooling, I'd never make it home before the damn thing died.

Re:Time has come to programmatically disable featu (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46737823)

A phone that can tell the difference between a passenger, driver, or someone just generally confused/distracted would be a fancy phone indeed. I feel there is no elegant solution to such a problem and the cost-benefit of a tech-based solution would be meager at best.

Re:Time has come to programmatically disable featu (1)

Joce640k (829181) | about 5 months ago | (#46738197)

I feel there is no elegant solution to such a problem and the cost-benefit of a tech-based solution would be meager at best.

How about pulling over and stopping to enable the phone?

Re:Time has come to programmatically disable featu (1)

Overzeetop (214511) | about 5 months ago | (#46739079)

Why would you want to pull over the let your passenger send a text?

Differentiate (3, Interesting)

Jonah Hex (651948) | about 5 months ago | (#46737757)

How are these going to differentiate between drivers and passengers? And if, as many studies are finding, even talking hands free involves the same risk as texting/etc, does that mean all phone usage would have to be turned off? How about using cell phones as GPS nav devices, something I do often myself, are actual GPS systems somehow magically less distracting? Do we ban all screens in the driver's view, including radios, nav devices, and the instrument panel? I find passengers distracting sometimes, how do they impact accident rates? Or is this getting a bit ridiculous... - HEX

Re:Differentiate (3, Interesting)

FatLittleMonkey (1341387) | about 5 months ago | (#46738305)

How are these going to differentiate between drivers and passengers?

They don't need to. By merely switching to silent mode when they detect (somehow) that they are in a car, they are still usable to passengers to make outbound calls/text, play games, or check their incoming. [This means they can also still be used by drivers, but I don't believe the intent is to stop drivers from initiating calls/texts. Just to stop incoming calls/texts/alerts/updates/etc which people have trained themselves, Pavlovian style, to always respond to.]

Do we ban all screens in the driver's view, including radios, nav devices, and the instrument panel?

Screens and radios are apparently much less distracting than phones. Driver's can choose when it's safe to glance. (Presumably TV's would be more distracting. And modern car-radios with dozens of tiny little black-on-black buttons are probably worse than your granddad's chromed push-button car-radio, but the audio itself is not that bad.)

As for GPS, there was research by... BMW?... some years back that showed that voice-guidance (spoken turn-by-turn nav) drastically increased crash rates. Probably for the same reason that phones are so distracting, the device shouts for attention regardless of what the driver is doing. Yet in most (all?) units, voice-guidance still can't be turned off at all. (Nor is it banned in any country.)

Thanks, but no. (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46737767)

When I go feature shopping for a new phone, automatically preventing me from doing shit is not going to be high on the list.

Re:Thanks, but no. (2)

SeaFox (739806) | about 5 months ago | (#46738659)

You assume you're going to get a choice. In Japan, a cell phone that has a loud, audible shutter-sound when a picture is taken that the owner cannot disable is not high on anyone's feature list, either.

Re:Thanks, but no. (1)

Mr Z (6791) | about 5 months ago | (#46738665)

How about when parents go phone shopping for their kids? It'll at least have a chance of affecting teen drivers, which already are among the worst drivers and heaviest texters.

The Nanny Phone (4, Insightful)

SuperKendall (25149) | about 5 months ago | (#46737769)

needs to know that we don't know what is good for us when it comes to driving

A) How does it know if you are a passenger or not.

B) Phones that don't do what we want when we want are considered "broken" by most people, not "helpful".

Re:The Nanny Phone (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46738027)

Re:The Nanny Phone (1)

Joce640k (829181) | about 5 months ago | (#46738201)

Calls to emergency services could be allowed. Duh!

We'll need more 911 operators (2)

DaveAtFraud (460127) | about 5 months ago | (#46738275)

911 Operator: "911. What's your emergency?"

Sobbing voice: "I just can't take it anymore. I need someone to talk to."

911 Operator: "That's OK ma'am. I'm here to talk to you. What's your location?"

Simpering voice: "I'm stuck in traffic on the intersate. It seems like hours since I talked to anyone and my phone won't let me call anyone but you."

911 Operator: "You'll be fine ma'am. We're trained to deal with cell phone withdrawl victims. A nice highway patrol officer is on his way to talk to you in person. How long have it been since you made a phone call ma'am?"

Anguished response: "I don't know. I left the office at 5:00 and talked to BFF until I got in my car but the phone dropped the call as soon as I started the engine. What time is it now?"

911 Operator: "It's now 5:15 you poor dear. You've been without cell phone contact for at least 10 minutes. I'll send the paramedics as well as the highway patrol."

Re:We'll need more 911 operators (1)

reikae (80981) | about 5 months ago | (#46738871)

So people do still buy phones to make calls? I thought it was all about the "smart" stuff nowadays. Or was that the actual joke? :)

Scary, but to some degree it could be done. (0)

chromaexcursion (2047080) | about 5 months ago | (#46737773)

several of my apps respond to voice. Admittedly still trying to get that right since they respond to what's playing the radio.

My new phone is better.
Its a brave new world

I'm not sure how much my phone, and those connected to it, I'd like to know.
have to see how it goes

Re:Scary, but to some degree it could be done. (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46738159)

Speaking of the radio... I am so annoyed by these new radios with all the menus and crap.

I grew up with an old car radio that had two knobs, the one on the left was which station, the one on the right was how loud, and it had five in-out sliding thingies under the dial. If you found a station you liked, you picked one of the five little thingies and pulled it out, then pushed it back in. From then on, whenever you pushed on that thingie, it would set the dial to the same place it was when you pulled it out, and would do so until you put the dial somewhere else and pulled it out; then it would go to that somewhere else.

It was so damned simple and intuitive you did not have to even think much about it, much less look at it, to adjust it properly.

It required about as much attention as getting a fly off your nose.

These new radios are a real pain in the ass to mess with when I am trying to drive. I really miss my old radio.

Safer phones? Seriously? (4, Insightful)

Dutch Gun (899105) | about 5 months ago | (#46737797)

People need to stop distracting themselves while driving. Better yet, make sure that anyone who causes damage, injury, or deaths due to their negligence while driving is fully prosecuted under the law. It's no different than driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Driving a vehicle requires responsibility as a driver.

Let's not kid ourselves. People will just root their phones and bypass any restrictions put in place to block access to the phone while driving. And how the hell would a phone know the difference between a passenger sitting in a car and a driver?

At it's heart, this really isn't a technology problem, but a societal one. We need to crack down on this sort of stuff, so people understand that it's simply not worth the risk to break the law. It would be awesome if software or hardware could fix all those meatware-related problems, but that's not the world we live in.

Re:Safer phones? Seriously? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46738429)

The problem with very harsh penalties (and/or stricter licensure requirements (holy shit, why does Firefox think licensure is not a word?)) is that for a very large portion -- perhaps even a majority -- of the American population, driving is not really optional. No driving means no way of getting to work because of shitty or totally absent public transportation, and no getting to work means no paying your bills. Even if we are willing to ruin someone's life over distracted driving, the aggregate effect on the economy would be devastating. The real "societal solution" is to first address the reality that not everyone should be a driver and come up with alternatives for those people rather than telling them "too bad, you're fucked". At that point, we can start imposing a much higher standard of driver education and much harsher penalties, and it will be what it should be -- simple revocation of the privilege of driving -- rather than an act that can potentially be financially ruinous far out of proportion to the offense.

Re:Safer phones? Seriously? (2)

rkww (675767) | about 5 months ago | (#46738671)

People need to stop distracting themselves while driving. Better yet, make sure that anyone who causes damage, injury, or deaths due to their negligence while driving is fully prosecuted under the law.

You mean something like this [www.gov.uk] ?

It's illegal to ride a motorcycle or drive using hand-held phones or similar devices. The rules are the same if you're stopped at traffic lights or queuing in traffic.

You can get an automatic fixed penalty notice if you're caught using a hand-held phone while driving or riding. You'll get 3 penalty points on your licence and a fine of £100.

Your case could also go to court and you could be disqualified from driving or riding and get a maximum fine of £1,000. Drivers of buses or goods vehicles could get a maximum fine of £2,500.

The Perfect Phone Feature For Safety (2)

Irate Engineer (2814313) | about 5 months ago | (#46737829)

Have a small amount of C-4 explosive in the phone. If the phone is switched on when the velocity is greater than 30 mph *BOOM*.

And instead of airbags, we should also have daggers sticking out of our steering wheels, poised directly at our hearts. That way people will only be able to drive like assholes once.

Darwinian evolution is our friend. Let's use it!

Re:The Perfect Phone Feature For Safety (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46737937)

So much for using a phone on a train, bus, airplane, or as a passenger in any moving vehicle.

Re:The Perfect Phone Feature For Safety (0)

SuperKendall (25149) | about 5 months ago | (#46737945)

"Hey, thanks for the ride! Oh wait, that's a text from my dearest GF, we are getting married tomorrow! I'll just send her back a quick KBLAMOOOORM."

Re:The Perfect Phone Feature For Safety (1)

Drishmung (458368) | about 5 months ago | (#46738293)

Have a small amount of C-4 explosive in the phone. If the phone is switched on when the velocity is greater than 30 mph *BOOM*.

The TSA will just love that.

And instead of airbags, we should also have daggers sticking out of our steering wheels, poised directly at our hearts. That way people will only be able to drive like assholes once.

Shame about that child stepping out in front of you.

Re:The Perfect Phone Feature For Safety (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46738331)

And instead of airbags, we should also have daggers sticking out of our steering wheels, poised directly at our hearts.

If evolution was my friend, every idiot who regurgitated that cretinous spike-on-the-steering-wheel line would die.

A phone that stays in your pocket while driving... (0)

AmazingRuss (555076) | about 5 months ago | (#46737853)

...but knows when to cockpunch you for driving like an idiot would be a boon to mankind.

Re:A phone that stays in your pocket while driving (1)

chromaexcursion (2047080) | about 5 months ago | (#46737959)

vibrate mode.
don't want to go there ...

How does it know? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46737901)

How would the phone know who is driving? Does that mean passengers can't text in a moving car?

Re:How does it know? (1)

Joce640k (829181) | about 5 months ago | (#46738205)

Yes!

Most cars have a technology that allows them to pull over and stop. It's called a 'driver'...

So basically (0)

chrylis (262281) | about 5 months ago | (#46737921)

The Moto X, or an enhanced version of it? In addition to the now-standard voice control, it automatically detects when I'm driving and goes into a "driving mode" that will suppress some notifications and use text-to-speech for calls and texts.

Already taken care of (2)

FrostDust (1009075) | about 5 months ago | (#46737983)

AT&T Drive Mode [slashdot.org]

Motorola Assist [google.com]

Apps like these seem to do most everything the blogger is looking for:

  • Blocking / auto-responding to texts
  • Detect when you're driving (manually disable if used as passanger, or otherwise needs to be used)
  • Allow voice control
  • Doesn't depend on car integration support

Your phone should belong to the collective (1)

Kohath (38547) | about 5 months ago | (#46738131)

This is the real problem. Your phone furthers your own bourgeois material individualism. It must be re-purposed to better serve the collective.

Re:Your phone should belong to the collective (1)

Drishmung (458368) | about 5 months ago | (#46738303)

You're with the NSA, right?

STFU (0, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46738135)

Damn, the safety nazi's are more anoying than the bitcoin pushers.

FUCK BETA (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46738139)

seriously, this redirecting to BETA even after I type in www instead is getting REALLY FUCKING OLD.

Head-down time (3, Interesting)

Animats (122034) | about 5 months ago | (#46738183)

Aviation human-factors people call this the "head-down time" problem - pilot looking at panel for too long. Big efforts are made to minimize head-down time during takeoff, approach, and landing. In combat aircraft, huge efforts are made to eliminate it outright, with heads-up displays and all essential controls needed during combat on throttle and stick. Pilot training emphasizes these issues.

Car UI people are just starting to get a clue about this. Early car interfaces were just awful. BMW's original iDrive is considered a classic example of how not to do it. There have some better interfaces since, but the tendency to emulate phones and do everything through a touchscreen is a step backwards.

Phone people have no clue at all. They assume they own the user's attention.

Not mundane (1, Insightful)

dutchwhizzman (817898) | about 5 months ago | (#46738217)


Driving is not a mundane task. As long as people treat it like that, they will be donating organs and keeping the car body repair industry blooming. Even if we're not using a phone, having a conversation is so distracting that the intense task of keeping a lump of metal hurling along at speeds our brain never was meant to comprehend is severely compromised and chances of an error potentially resulting in a crash are increased close to the same amount as when we're on the phone. Holding the device isn't going to matter much, we're just as screwed if we're concentrating on a passenger or trying to comprehend the squeaking of a hands free kit.

Perceived danger is key here. We tend to think there is no danger in doing this, because none of our senses alert us of anything (possibly) going wrong. Make the seat belts pop loose, let a spike appear from the steering wheel and make the car rumble if drivers appear distracted. That will make them aware they are crossing a line that quickly leads to a situation they can in no way react to in time, if they notice it at all before they have an accident. Their sense of danger will be triggered and they will avoid getting to that point in the future, or or ignore it and become another statistic.

people will stop talking and texting while driving (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46738267)

when they get autonomous cars. not one second before.

Here's my answer: NO (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46738271)

I'm tired of the increasingly pussified society. There are risks to life, and we will never be able to eradicate all of the risks. Deal with it. Some people with thrive, some people will fuck up and die. Survival of the fittest works GREAT.

do not dumb down smartphones, make the cars smart (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46738297)

It's not the phones that need to change. It's the driving that needs to take next step in evolution. Restricting something, punishing everyone, just because we cannot solve problems otherwise is bad for innovation (the same way marketing and business kills innovation)

My favorite things (1)

onproton (3434437) | about 5 months ago | (#46738323)

First football and now texting - what will VT researchers ruin next, apple pie? sex? sex while eating apple pie?

A Simple Solution (1)

DERoss (1919496) | about 5 months ago | (#46738455)

Don't change the phones. Don't change the cars. Instead, change the liability laws.

In an accident, a driver who was using a phone or other electronic communication device should be presumed to be grossly negligent. The presumption could be rebutable, but that would require the driver to prove he or she was not using any such device. With gross negligence, the law should require the automobile insurance company to cancel the driver's policy. The law should also prohibit a grossly negligent driver from collecting any insurance benefit but not prohibit the driver's victims from being compensated.

Yes, there are uninsured drivers. Where I live, the police will often confiscate their cars if they are stopped for even a minor traffic violation. Thus, there is serious incentive to be insured or else not drive.

By the way, the reason we have so many, many laws is that not enough people will do the right thing. Laws set the minimum standard for behavior. When too many individuals treat that as the maximum standard, they are inviting new laws to be passed to raise the standard.

We? (1)

markass530 (870112) | about 5 months ago | (#46738791)

Who is We? Did the researchers have a mouse in their pockets during this study ?

Multitasking (2)

ExecutorElassus (1202245) | about 5 months ago | (#46738949)

The problem lies, in part, with what I guess you could call the aesthetic of multitasking. We love to think that we're good at it, but -- as research has proven over [utah.edu] and over [about.com] [warning: first link is a pdf download] -- we are actually really shitty at it. The same is true of driving. I remember as a kid riding in my dad's car, how he would try to change the channel on the radio, or do something with the A/C, and immediately start veering the car off the road. At stoplights, the minute he stopped thinking about it, his foot came off the brake and the car would roll out into the intersection.

I don't think fixing cars or cell phones is going to get to the root of the problem. The root is that people think they can do more than one thing at a time and not trip over their own damn feet. Since changing the culture seems out of the question, no amount of technological fixes is going to save us from trying to do more than we're cognitively equipped to do.

"Airplane" mode, "Driver" mode (1)

lkcl (517947) | about 5 months ago | (#46738963)

we have the concept of "airplane" mode. what's so hard about coding up a "driver" mode? oh wait... it's illegal to use a phone whilst driving, so "driver" mode would basically be synonymous with the "off" button.... :)

Dead wrong (1)

Overzeetop (214511) | about 5 months ago | (#46739075)

Dead wrong. Driver mode should be a UI mode which is tuned for hands and (mostly) eyes free usage. Allowing communication, navigation, and entertainment (audio) to seamlessly be integrated with the automotive head unit. The use of simpler prompts keyed through the steering wheel (like volume on head units or set/coast/resume cruise control) and large format feedback/UI viewable with peripheral vision.

Phones *could* make the driving experience safer by bypassing the distraction of the modern touchscreen headunit which is mounted way outside of peripheral vision. But because there is no dedicated mode, it's simply not suited for the task. Yet.

So what we need are safer cars (1)

drolli (522659) | about 5 months ago | (#46739003)

I dont use my mobile while driving. But i know enough idiots do.

So lets build a safer car. The technology is there. The typical accidents which happen due to reduced attention (like changing lanes unintentionally, not reacting to bearking light of the car in front or a pedestrian entering the road) can be addressed well by existing off-the-shelf technology. Right now these things (radar, automatic breaking) are sold in premium cars. The reason for this is not because these are so expensive to built, but because its is the best strategy for carmakers to first milk the high-end segment (with nearly arbitrary earnings/revenue) and then turn to the rest of the market.

However, if you make things mandatory for all new cars, then the price for the new car goes up by a few hundred bucks, but the insurance will go down.

As and extreme measure the car could reduce the maximum speed automaticlly once it detects that the driver is using a mobile phone or, in general, not looking at the road. Tracking eye movements is well proven technology.

YES - and the mobile ecosys needs to perk up (1)

Overzeetop (214511) | about 5 months ago | (#46739051)

Mobile phones *could* make much of driving safer than it is today instead of making it more dangerous. For the first time, we have devices which be an effective co-pilot (mapping, traffic, entertainment, communication) and yet most of them are unusable in a voice-only mode. Part of that is standardization - every app requires a different set of commands, or an incomplete set of commands. Part of it is parochialism - OS developers allowing only their own offspring apps (most of which are, at best, middling compared to 3rd party) integration with the OS. This speaks nothing of the hideous integration with head units in cars, both OEM and aftermarket, which have the same problems - and don't even get me started on the microphones in cars.

Nobody seems to have really put a team together that has been tasked with making the experience safe for use in a car. They've bolted on weird, disfigured additions that make demos possible but which are not really useful in regular usage. It needs to be a core functional operating mode.

FWIW, I don't consider a ban on personal computers useful in cars. The distractions of text messages and the idiot watching movies is no different than the woman putting on lipstick or the guy reading a paperback while driving, and the presence of music and navigation and communication is no different than the music and navigation that gets built into head units today and the husband jabbering away or the kids yelling at each other in the back seat. Until we are no longer driving it's better to manage distractions than think we can eliminate them.

No (1)

nurb432 (527695) | about 5 months ago | (#46739173)

For many just the act of talking while driving is a distraction.

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