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Driving mode becoming new feature on smartphones

The human brain is wired to respond to random rewards. This is the underlying reason for the frequent need many of us feel to check our phones regularly. The notification of a new multitude of likes for your Instagram post, a new Tinder match, or a text message can be hard to ignore. It is why the average person checks their smartphone every 15 minutes or less.

It is hard to ignore your phone even when you shouldn't be checking it, such as while driving.

New Apple phone would prevent notifications while driving

The difficulty we all have in putting down the phone is the reason many of the latest features for smartphones involve "driving mode." This week, Apple announced a new driving mode feature on its iphones, which will turn off notifications for drivers. It also responds autotmatically to text messages, telling the sender the recipient is driving and unavailable.

"Wi-Fi Doppler" effect

Smartphones already have this feature if the vehicle is Bluetooth-enabled. In addition, there are numerous apps available that the driver can turn on prior to getting behind the wheel that provide similar functionality.

However, those of us who drive an older-model vehicle may not have a Bluetooth-enabled car. And it is difficult to remember to turn on an app every time you are driving.

Apple, however, says the new phone can tell if a user is driving through what Apple calls a Wi-Fi Doppler effect.

Understanding this requires a brief mention of physics. When you are stationary, you can hear the change in pitch of a moving vehicle. As a car moves closer to you, the frequency of the sound waves come at you closer together, resulting in a higher pitch. As the car moves away, the frequency lowers.

Similarly, the new iphone will be able to measure the frequency of Wi-Fi radiowaves, which can tell if a driver is moving fast enough away from a stationary router to be driving.

Will it work?

As with all new safety technology, it remains to be seen whether this will have a significant impact on reducing instances of distracted driving. We hope it does, as hundreds of thousands of people are injured in the U.S. every year to distracted driving.

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