This Apple Feature Will Save Thousands of Lives

It’s been 10 years now since Steve Jobs stood on the stage at MacWorld in late June 2007 and introduced the world to the future — the iPhone. I knew the iPhone would change the way we communicated, engaged, and transacted.

What I saw back then and still very much see now is the ability for these devices to grab your attention — not in the sense of old-school “pushed engagement”, rather “pulled engagement” — like an addiction. You find yourself wanting to find out what’s going on. What is everyone else doing? What’s the latest thing I need to/should know? Pulling you in…

Where that addiction becomes an very real issue, is when we sit behind the wheel of an automobile and take our devices with us.

Everyone has done it — sneaked a peak at what’s going on whilst waiting at a red traffic light — or as I have experienced in Asia recently, whilst riding a motorcycle without a helmet, with a Starbucks Frappuccino in the other hand doing 40km/h in a thunderstorm (not kidding a bit!).

I’m of the view that the press and the various law enforcement agencies don’t put enough emphasis on motor vehicle accidents (MVAs) where device distraction has played a part. If these details were as heavily promoted as speed or fatigue I think we’d be shocked — especially where fatal MVAs involving drivers under the age of 25 are concerned.

According to US National Safety Council more than half of the fatalities in MVAs in a very select number of cases are due to device distraction. Furthermore, this number is greatly undercounted according to the NSC.

Of 180 fatal crashes in the US between 2009 and 2011–52% involved the use of a mobile device.

Surely this number must be higher today.

Now watch this…

Incredibly powerful video from the #ITCANWAIT campaign in the US.

Do Not Disturb While Driving

This is where one of the least promoted — and possibly most important — features of the recent iOS 11 announcement at Apple’s annual Worldwide Developer Conference (WWDC) was made.

The feature does pretty much what it says above — a typical Apple feature-marketing strength. When activated, your device will go into a pseudo-Flight Mode, diverting all in-bound calls to Voicemail and automatically responding to text messages with a notification to the sender that you’re unavailable. The feature even allows the sender to upgrade the urgency of the message and by-pass DNDWD by replying to this message with “urgent”.

The automated response when you are sent a text message in DNDWD mode.

DNDWD was informally activated as part of the iOS 11 BETA 2 release on June 21 so I’ve had a chance to have a better play with it. I very quickly came the following conclusion:

As with most things Apple do, it’s the simplicity and the convenience of the way that DNDWD works that is its most endearing feature.

DNDWD Set-Up

When you enable the feature you have three (3) ways to enable DNDWD:

  • Automatically — The device determines when it thinks you’re driving and turns itself on — as it says below: ‘based on detected motion’. It’s not very accurate(I’ve had it trigger on a bus, a train, as a passenger, and on a treadmill), but that’s not the point. I suspect this feature will learn when you’re not actually driving to become less annoying. When I do get behind the wheel, DNDWD just takes care of it for me. How very Apple.
  • When Connected to Car Bluetooth — Far more accurate and in the majority of cases this will be the best example of DNDWD saving lives. No assumptions, no turning on when you’re on the train heading home. Navigation and music streaming and calls will remain available with messages restricted.
  • Manually — Almost pointless, but in some cases the Automatically setting above might be too trigger-happy, and the conscientious drivers out there will enable DNDWD via the greatly improved Control Centre in iOS 11.

Parents Rejoice

One of the first questions that tech guru Charlie Brown asked me when we spoke about DNDWD on his radio show, was Parental Controls. “Can a parent set it up so it will activate when their most precious possessions get behind the wheel?”, he asked. Yes you can.

I believe Parental Controls are a greatly under-utilised function of iOS. The introduction of DNDWD should make the parent of every driver under the age of 25 sit down with their children and enable this feature — if nothing else.

Smart Motoring

I love driving — have done since well before I was old enough to legally do it. Sitting on my father’s lap whilst steering the family car up the road to our very dear country friends — still remember it to this day.

Finland makes it compulsory for every new driver to complete a detailed driver training course (20+ hours of instructed driving at speed, in the wet, and obstacle avoidance) before they are given a license. Not parallel parking or how to properly negotiate a roundabout — real car control. A Smart Motoring attitude.

What I don’t love about driving is this sense from overly-sensitive bureaucrats and so called ‘motoring experts’ that driving is complicated and dangerous. In some cases it very much is. In most cases, it’s more a lack of education or as we will see with DNDWD — having the right skills & tools to manage the risk on the road. We need to adopt a Smart Motoring attitude for all new drivers.

Apple has introduced a game-changing feature with Do Not Disturb While Driving and it will save lives — so long as we’re smart enough to use it.

iOS 11 should start shipping in early-mid September in-line with previous Apple iOS update cycles.

Founder & CEO of Contact Light — maker of Embark and Nearcast. Husband and Dad. Into: media | tech | cars | ag | @backoftheferry | @F1 | @Supercars