By Bernie Woodall
DETROIT (Reuters) - The U.S. Transportation Department on Wednesday issued voluntary guidelines for makers of mobile devices, asking them to help keep eyes on the road by developing a "driver mode" that would disable some distracting functions in moving cars.
The guidelines also ask manufacturers to make it easy to pair mobile devices with in-vehicle systems to facilitate hands-free phone use.
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“These common sense guidelines, grounded in the best research available, will help designers of mobile devices build products that cut down on distraction on the road," U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said in a press statement.
Mark Rosekind, administrator of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, said in statement on Wednesday that driver distraction was one of the factors behind the rise of traffic fatalities. Road deaths rose 10.4 percent in the first half of 2016, NHTSA has said.
Phone calls, text messages, navigation systems and other features on cellphones can be dangerous distractions for drivers and the Transportation Department and NHTSA want to limit their functionality when the devices are in what is termed "driver mode."
The Transportation Department also called for ease in pairing, which connects smart phones and cars to allow drivers to use voice control on the devices. Phone and vehicle pairing already are available for many new vehicles sold in the United States.
Both the pairing and driver mode will reduce the potential for distraction by limiting the time a driver’s eyes are off the road, while also preserving the full functionality of the devices when used at other times.
Major manufacturers of mobile devices used by American drivers include Apple Inc and Samsung Electronics.
An auto manufacturers trade group earlier this month urged President-elect Donald Trump to establish a presidential advisory committee to "coordinate auto sector regulators." The Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers also called on Trump to conduct a "comprehensive regulatory review" of all regulations and actions since Sept. 1, including the Obama administration's new guidance on self-driving vehicles.
(Reporting by Bernie Woodall; Editing by Bill Trott)