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iOS 11 to Bring Do Not Disturb While Driving

Once you install iOS 11, which is available now in public beta form and will likely ship for everyone in September 2017, you may notice that your iPhone gets a lot quieter in the car. That’s due to a new feature in iOS 11 called Do Not Disturb While Driving that Apple enables by default.

In short, Do Not Disturb While Driving activates automatically when you’re driving a car, blocks notifications on your iPhone, and makes it so you can’t do much with your iPhone until you park.

Take a look at distracted driving statistics and it becomes obvious why Apple came up with this feature. The U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that 660,000 drivers use cell phones while driving during the daytime. In 2015 alone, 391,000 people were injured and 3477 killed in distracted driving incidents. Given the iPhone’s 30 to 40 percent share of the smartphone market, it arguably bears some blame for over 100,000 injuries and 1000 deaths in just that year. That’s a far more tangible problem than many tempests in the tech industry press teapot.

When Apple first announced Do Not Disturb While Driving at WWDC (see “iOS 11 Gets Smarter in Small Ways,” 5 June 2017), I was a bit skeptical due to Apple’s spotty record with automotive features. CarPlay has yet to take off, and even when it’s available, it’s kind of a mess (see “CarPlay Offers Limited, Glitchy iPhone/Auto Integration,” 18 January 2016). In theory, Maps can automatically help you find your car in a parking lot, but that only works if you have a car with built-in Bluetooth — it doesn’t work with aftermarket devices.

To my surprise and delight, Do Not Disturb While Driving activated automatically during my first car trip with the iOS 11 beta on my iPhone 7 Plus. The feature relies either on a Bluetooth connection or the Doppler effect with Wi-Fi signals to detect motion.

You can change how the feature activates under Settings > Do Not Disturb > Activate. You can set it to Automatically (which enables Do Not Disturb While Driving when the iPhone detects motion), When Connected to Car Bluetooth, or Manually. If you and your spouse both have iPhones and often drive together, you may need to play with the settings to see what makes the most sense for the passenger.

To turn on Do Not Disturb While Driving manually, Apple provides an optional button in Control Center, though it’s not present by default. To add that button to Control Center, go to Settings > Control Center > Customize. (I’ll cover the new Control Center in detail in my upcoming “Take Control of iOS 11.”)

While Do Not Disturb While Driving is enabled, you can’t do much with your iPhone, but Siri still works. You’ll see only a single notification, informing you that the feature is on. To disable the feature, tap that notification and choose either “I’m Not Driving” or “Disable Do Not Disturb While Driving.” Alternatively, if you’re a passenger, you can press the Home button and tap “I’m Not Driving.” But that’s about it: once Do Not Disturb While Driving is on, not only will your iPhone not receive notifications, you also can’t access the Home screen, Widget screen, Control Center, or camera.

However, if you start audio playback before starting your trip, you can still control that with the Lock screen media controls. Turn-by-turn directions will also work normally — Google Maps as audio-only directions, while Apple’s Maps app offers Lock screen visuals in addition to audio directions. But if you need to make any adjustments while driving, you’ll have to turn off Do Not Disturb While Driving.

If you use CarPlay, it will reportedly still work, though notifications will be blocked. None of my cars support CarPlay, so I can’t verify this.

If someone messages you while you’re driving, they will receive an automated reply that, by default, says:

I’m driving with Do Not Disturb While Driving turned on. I’ll see your message when I get where I’m going.

(I’m not receiving notifications. If this is urgent, reply “urgent” to send a notification through with your original message.)

You can change the first line of this message in Settings > Do Not Disturb > Auto-Reply. However, the second line cannot be changed.

As the second line says, if the other party replies with “urgent,” the original message will be forced through the cone of silence.

By default, Messages replies automatically only to favorite contacts (to add someone, navigate to their contact in Contacts or Phone, scroll down, and tap Add to Favorites), but you can change that in Settings > Do Not Disturb > Auto-Reply To.

This loophole seems to work only for iOS’s built-in Messages app — for both SMS and iMessage — but perhaps in the future, Apple will let developers integrate support for it in other messaging apps.

Overall, I’ve found that Do Not Disturb While Driving doesn’t interfere with my usual activities much. In fact, it has made driving more peaceful by sparing me from notifications that are almost never urgent — it’s not so much getting the notification that’s a problem as thinking about what it might require me to do. And since I can’t do anything about such notifications safely while driving, it’s totally fine to have them flow in only once I’ve arrived at my destination.

What’s most important, though, is that Do Not Disturb While Driving could reduce the number of injuries and fatalities on the road by helping both you and other drivers focus on the road. We’re looking forward to seeing if those horrible distracted driving statistics drop once iOS 11 becomes widespread.


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Comments about iOS 11 to Bring Do Not Disturb While Driving
(Comments are closed.)

Testing the iOS 11 beta and I kind of like Do Not Disturb while driving. However, it still needs work. This weekend it kicked in while I was kayaking (not whitewater). Sort of annoying to have to hit "I am not driving" while trying to take a quick photo.
Derek Roff  An apple icon for a TidBITS Contributor 2017-08-21 10:19
This sounds like a great feature to me. It reminds me of something similar that I have wished for since iOS 6. I want a simple, elegant way to go into a new mode, Events Do Not Disturb, during meetings, concerts, my children's school performances, and the many similar events that come up every week.

Modifying the settings for the current Do Not Disturb at the beginning and end of each event is way too slow and error-prone. Turning off the phone works, but like most people, I often forget to turn it back on. I despair of reliably remembering to turn my phone back on at the end of the meeting/concert/etc. But I could discipline myself to invoke Event Do Not Disturb for the next XXXX minutes, at the START of each event. I need automatic, timed expiration of Event Do Not Disturb, just like the auto-expiration of the nighttime Do Not Disturb.

The notification to the Sender, plus the Urgent option, is a great feature, which I would like to include in Event Do Not Disturb. Has anyone already figured out how to do this, or should we all be sending the suggestion to Apple/Feedback?
Michelle Steiner  2017-08-21 14:45
My car can read SMS and iMessages to me when the phone is connected. Will this still be active if Do Not Disturb While Driving is active?

What about phone calls? Will the car still be able to receive or initiate them hands-free?
Josh Centers  An apple icon for a TidBITS Staffer 2017-08-21 15:16
I doubt it, since you don't get any of those notifications. Oddly enough, Siri works, but only if I hold the Home button. Hey Siri doesn't work.
Josh Centers  An apple icon for a TidBITS Staffer 2017-08-22 14:56
My bad, Hey Siri does work while DNDWD is on. It was turned off on my iPhone 7 Plus for some reason. I've corrected that in the article.
Michel Hedley  2017-08-21 16:05
Apple CarPlay is just another example of Apple just not completely getting its software right and fully useful. It is also another example of Apple releasing software and not doing any further work to fix shortcomings.

I wish Apple would stop fluffing around with trival stuff such as emojis and spend the effort in software enhancements. Still can't do groups in iOS mail after all this time.
I'm highly skeptical this will actually lead to safer roads. My guess is this is a CYA move on behalf of Apple because they're afraid of lawsuits on the horizon.

People who want to be responsible already had ample options before. Ignore incoming calls/texts or if that requires too much self-discipline use DND mode while driving.

The people who couldn't give a hoot about that are the same people who will gladly deactivate this feature because their texting or calls or social media notifications or whatever else is so much more important than everybody else's safety.
Adam Engst  An apple icon for a TidBITS Staffer 2017-08-21 16:28
I hope you're overestimating the likelihood that most people will override default settings. :-)
Josh Centers  An apple icon for a TidBITS Staffer 2017-08-21 16:38
Even if 90% of iOS 11 users disable this, it may still prevent a lot of accidents. We've set up reminders to look up those statistics in the future.
David Weintraub  2017-08-21 19:32
I have a new car with CarPlay, and I have no problems with it. I can use Siri to control CarPlay, and using Podcasts and Music seem to work just fine. Maybe newer versions of CarPlay work better than the one you tested. Maybe the software in my care in better.

I've used Do Not Disturb while Driving. With CarPlay, it makes little difference. Messages still come through via CarPlay and so do phone calls. However, without CarPlay, texting is shut down. I must pinky swear I'm not driving to use my phone.

When not connected to CarPlay, Do not disturb while driving is very effective since it's on by default. You don't know you're not getting calls and text messages. You don't notice until you pick up your phone to type a message and get the warning that you can't use the phone while driving.

I like the new Maps changes. I now get lane notifications and speed limits. The display is also a bit better too. These changes show up in CarPlay too.
bill452  2017-08-21 19:35
I always am in Airline mode when I drive so it won't make much difference to me as far as the reason why this is being implemented.

But I DO enable the car to play iTunes files as I drive (instead of listening to the radio). I set up a playlist in advance and just listen to it go, not ever fooling around with the phone. It's just an audio source. I hope that this feature will not interfere with this use of my iPhone.

Do you know anything about this?
Josh Centers  An apple icon for a TidBITS Staffer 2017-08-22 14:55
That should work just fine.
Tonya not the TidBits Tonya  2017-08-21 19:36
Do you think insurance companies/law enforcement will then take an iPhone after an accident and check to see if the "Do Not Disturb While Driving" function was active or not? This may become like those times you read about an accident and you see the statement, "The driver/passenger was not wearing a seatbelt."

Then would liability then be assigned differently than it might be now?
Adam Engst  An apple icon for a TidBITS Staffer 2017-08-22 09:12
I'm sure some lawyer will try it, but since it requires access to the iPhone in question, it may be hard or impossible to get that access.
Josh Centers  An apple icon for a TidBITS Staffer 2017-08-22 15:30
I could see them trying that, but it'd be hard to prove. AFAIK, there's no log of when it was enabled, and unless someone retrieves and checks the phone immediately, they'd never know if it was on or not.
janesprando  An apple icon for a TidBITS Contributor 2017-08-21 20:59
I sure hope OS 11 will fix what 10.3.3 did to my iPhone 6 with regards to the battery. I can have a full charge -to about 60% and all of a sudden the phone goes black. I have to hit the power button several times before the Apple comes on s-l-o-w-l-y. When my charger is not available, the phone is dead! When I can connect to a charger, it will charge up to at least 50% within minutes.

There are so many posts about this on Apple Support, but NO response from Apple on a fix. Anyone have an idea on how to fix the problem?
Dennis B. Swaney  2017-08-22 00:19
I don't have any problem like that with my iPhone 6 running iOS 10.3.3. Have you taken your phone into an Apple store and ask about it?
Adam Engst  An apple icon for a TidBITS Staffer 2017-08-22 09:10
Our son's iPhone 6 has a problem like this too, but I don't think it's related to a particular version of iOS. It's likely just a dead battery, and if you take it in and get it replaced, all will likely be well (and if not, then you have a real cause to complain to Apple).
Anonymous  2017-08-21 21:35
i like this feature but i asked apple to give me control over the second, "if this is urgent," message. nobody texting me has anything urgent enough that it needs to bother me whilst piloting my car. plus a hands-free phonecall, although still distracting, is ergonomically much safer than a text message.
Adam Engst  An apple icon for a TidBITS Staffer 2017-08-22 09:09
In that case, you'd want to customize the first line of the auto-reply to say that you won't look at any messages while driving so they should not use the "urgent" breakthrough.
richard.twohy  2017-08-22 00:05
I make money, driving for LYFT. Will this new app prevent my iphone-6 from receiving and transmitting messages about my prospective passengers, the map-changes to show where I am going, and "closing" the process when I discharge a passenger-?? I CAN'T LYFT-DRIVE WITHOUT my iPhone being totally active-!!!
Adam Engst  An apple icon for a TidBITS Staffer 2017-08-22 09:06
You'll just turn it off, as the article explains.
Dennis B. Swaney  2017-08-22 00:17
How does this affect GPS navigation apps? If I can't use them, or OBD II data logging apps while driving with DND active, then I'll definitely disable it.
Josh Centers  An apple icon for a TidBITS Staffer 2017-08-22 15:28
That should all work fine. Just set up your navigation before you start driving.
mathieu prevost  2017-08-22 06:12
How does it affect my commute? I ride the bus for two hours each day to get to work? Thank you
Adam Engst  An apple icon for a TidBITS Staffer 2017-08-22 09:08
If your car has Bluetooth, you'd set DNDWD to activate only when connected to the car's Bluetooth. If it doesn't, you'd either turn DNDWD off entirely or turn it off manually whenever you ride the bus.
A. Saba  2017-08-22 08:43
Almost everyone with whom I text uses WhatsApp. I hope this new feature will als put WhatsApp on silent.
Adam Engst  An apple icon for a TidBITS Staffer 2017-08-22 09:12
My guess is that if Apple opens up the "urgent" breakthrough to other apps, it will be in a year or so, after they've seen how it works with Messages.