There’s nothing quite like “borrowing” an idea from someone else in the tech world. It’s all about how you implement the idea, how you make sure the idea is still general enough that it is not outright theft, and then how your user base reacts to the change.
That’s what makes a new feature on the iPhone, called Do Not Disturb While Driving, so interesting. It’s something Android users have enjoyed (or been annoyed by) for a while. On the iPhone, it means your phone is basically locked. When you use the mode and pick up your phone, you’ll see a screen that says your phone is disabled.
When you get a message or receive a phone call, the iPhone can then send a message back that you’re driving. To enable the feature on any iPhone that runs iOS 11, just head to Settings and enable the Do Not Disturb While Driving feature. You can set it to activate automatically when the iPhone senses you are driving or manually when you decide to use it. (A chip inside the phone can sense movement that could only be a car.)
Over the last week, I’ve use the feature many times. Well, to be more specific–I’ve stopped after driving to sit idle in a parking lot or the curb and picked up my phone, only to realize that it was impossible for me to check for a text or glance at my iTunes playlist.
You can go through a few settings to disable it of course, but it’s really a reminder to stay safe, remain vigilant, and keep your attention on the road. And here’s the amazing part. It worked. I refrained from glancing at the phone, even though it was safe to do so, and I decided to just wait until I was out of the vehicle entirely.
We know distracted driving is an issue, because accidents and fatalities on the road have risen slightly in the last year or two. It’s a problem because your brain goes into a strange blackout mode where all you see is the screen and nothing else–no pedestrians, no other cars, no roadside objects. It’s a good thing the brain does this, because it allows us to focus. It’s a bad thing when you are driving 70 miles-per-hour in heavy traffic.
For Android users, the feature has been available since last year at least. I recall using it with a Google Pixel phone connected using Android Auto to several makes and models, including a nice sports sedan with a lot of horsepower. The feature also blocks messages and calls. There’s no way to prove Apple noticed this feature and added it, but the Pixel essentially does the same thing–sensing the car is moving and blocking calls.
You can use a custom message on the Phone to send back to people to let them know you are driving, and you can select whether all calls are blocked or just those not in your contacts or favorites. Anyone can use a trigger word (“urgent”) to contact you even if you are Do Not Disturb mode.