Apple has used its annual Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) event in California overnight to announce a new driving-related safety feature aimed at reducing driver distraction.
Called ‘Do Not Disturb While Driving’ the function does exactly as it suggests, and activates the existing Do Not Disturb function to prevent phone calls, text messages and other notifications from causing a potential driver distraction.
The feature works via the phone’s Bluetooth connectivity to set itself to Do Not Disturb mode when it detects a connection to a vehicle’s Bluetooth. Even in situations where Bluetooth isn’t active the phone will monitor its surroundings and if it detects it might be in a car will wait until the end of the drive to suggest enabling the Do Not Disturb While Driving function.
The new feature forms part of Apple’s iOS 11 software update for mobile devices, which will ship with the next-generation iPhone from September this year and be available to existing iPhone owners via download around the same time. Pre-release ‘beta’ versions of the software are immediately available to the developer community.
"We're building on 'do not disturb' with a feature called 'do not disturb while driving', and it's all about keeping your eyes on the road," Craig Federighi, Apple’s senoir vice president of software engineering told attendees at WWDC.
"When you're driving you don't need to be responding to these kinds of messages, in fact you don't need to see them.
"So now when you install iOS11 we're going to use Bluetooth to understand if you're connected to a car – even if you don't have Bluetooth we're going to use WiFi doppler effect to measure that you're moving in a car and when you finish that first drive we're going to suggest 'hey, how about we activate do not disturb while driving'."
As with many other phone functions, owners will be required to first enable the Do Not Disturb function, and the system won't automatically lock people out of their phone. Users that do unlock their phone in a moving car will get a message saying "you will not receive notifications while driving".
Anyone that sends a text message to a phone using the function will be alerted via an automated reply which states "I'm driving with Do Not Disturb turned on. I'll see your message when I get where I'm going".
Apple has also provided the ability to disable the new function by telling the phone you are the passenger.
Along with the new Do Not Disturb While Driving feature, Apple will also add new functions to Apple Maps including speed limit information and lane guidance information during navigation.
Federighi says the brand wanted to reduce distraction behind the wheel for people who do not have Apple CarPlay fitted in new cars, however unlike Android Auto, which can launch a driving mode on the phone itself without the need for a compatible headunit, Apple has yet to introduce an on-screen version of CarPlay for its mobile devices.