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Could an Ignition-Activated “Car Mode” Keep Drivers From Texting?

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Texting while driving accounts for more and more accidents every year, but there’s no clear solution in sight (unless you think these new SMS rest stops will work). New York designer Joey Cofone is proposing another idea: An iOS “Car Mode,” akin to airplane mode, that would prevent you from texting while your car is in motion.


Here’s how it would work: Whenever you’re driving, Car Mode would vastly simplify the iOS user interface, getting rid of notifications, clocks, texts, and any and all noises (though navigation and hands-free calling would still work). If you do get a text, Car Mode would automatically shoot one back to the sender alerting them that you’re en route somewhere. Finally, when you arrive, the command center would supply a full report on what you missed.

It’s a bit like the simplified UI Android users can activate while driving—except, as Cofone pointed out, that it doesn’t actually promote using your phone at all. “My Car Mode approach is the opposite,” he explained over email. “When CM is activated the screen is completely static until you exit, upon which it shows a review of the messages you've missed.”


It sounds like common sense. But there’s one big UX dilemma: Will anyone actually use it, if they’re not forced to? Cofone imagines that Bluetooth-enabled cars would link up Car Mode automatically. “Apple, in theory, can partner with car insurance companies (much like they partner with all sorts of other services),” he adds. For example, logging enough Car Mode hours could help to lower your car insurance rates—a bit like Nest’s deal with energy companies.

Cofone’s concept won first prize at a live design charrette at the AIGA’s annual conference in early October, but for now, it's just a concept. After all, it’s easy to imagine iPhone users being peeved enough to find loopholes around Car Mode, as well.

So, what do you think? Can a UI save us from ourselves?