A new iPhone feature may reduce the distraction drivers face in their vehicles.
According to the National Traffic Highway Safety Administration, distracted driving accounts for eight deaths per day.
Craig Federighi, Senior Vice President of Software Engineering for Apple, announced at the Worldwide Developers Conference in San Jose, California, that iPhones and iPads will come equipped with a "Do Not Disturb While Driving" feature with the release of iOS 11 in the fall.
When enabled, the new feature will prevent drivers from receiving notifications and accessing certain apps by locking their screen when their phone is connected to a car via Bluetooth or a car cable, notes USA Today. The feature will also activate when it detects that a car is in motion.
Drivers will be able to access Apple Maps while driving, but they will not be able to input a destination or otherwise interact. CNN reports that other navigation maps will work as well, but not as easily.
"It's all about keeping your eyes on the road," Federighi said.
Users will be able to set automatic replies to text messages while they are driving. They will also have the ability to allow messages from certain contacts to come through. Federighi says the latter feature is included so that drivers can have "peace of mind that [they] can get contacted … and that message will go through."
Driver distraction has been a growing concern for both developers and transportation authorities as smartphones become more popular and integrated in people's daily lives. An increase in cell phone use behind the wheel has continued despite texting and driving being banned in 46 states.
For example, a 2016 study conducted in California by the Office of Traffic Safety reported that nearly 13 percent of drivers were seen interacting with their cell phones while driving, compared to 9 percent in 2015.
According to the San Francisco Examiner, it takes an average of 4.6 seconds to read or send a text. That may not sound like a long time -- until you consider that taking your eyes off the road for only 3 seconds while traveling at 65 mph is enough to miss 100 yards -- the length of a football field.
The iOS 11 update would be far from the first application to prevent texting while driving. Apps such as Lifesaver and AT&T Drivemode attempt to discourage the use of texting and driving by blocking notifications and sending auto-replies. Other app developers seek to offer incentives to reduce phone-related car fatalities.
In the fall, a group of graduate students at the University of Georgia will test an app called JoyRyde on a group of high-schoolers in Athens-Clarke County, Georgia, reports website Governing. The app will award users points for the amount of time they go without interacting with their phones while driving.
Users who gain enough points will be able to redeem discounts from local businesses and update their friends on their progress.
The effectiveness of the app will be evaluated by user data and updates from the Athens-Clarke County Police Department.
“We want to serve as a model for other places,” app developer Laura Pontari said. “We would hope to see something like this rolled out all over the country.”