Google Wants To Block Everything But Navigation On Mobile Devices While You Drive

Technology / 9 Comments

Wearables like smartwatches and smart glasses are becoming major distractions while driving, and Google wants to stop them.

Google may soon be at the heart of most infotainment systems, but the technology giant doesn't want people using its technology irresponsibly; to that end, Google has filed a patent for technology that would disable all auxiliary functionality on smart devices when driving that isn't essential for navigation. Stumbled upon by Autoevolution, the patent speaks of the array of smart devices we use in day-to-day life including smart glasses, watches, and the like.

The idea is based on the dangers of distraction, and the patent shows explicitly that users can bypass the block when needed. Still, the default would be that if the processor detects the wearer is driving or riding a bike, then only navigation services will be shown.

Currently, many devices such as phones and smartwatches have a driving mode that mutes distractions, but they are optional. If the feature is turned on at the factory, it can be turned off by the user. Google's patent, as we read it, builds the feature into the processor so it can use multiple sensors and can only be turned off per instance in case of a false positive.


The patent itself is dense, but Google seems to think it can figure out who is driving with user-context data, hence the processor-based part of the patent. If you have, from personal experience, an iPhone and the driving mode switched on, it's not intelligent enough to figure out that you are a passenger in, say, your Uber driver's Prius or neighbor's Camry, and needs prompting to let you use the phone's entire feature set. Google's processor-based system should be able to figure out when someone is actually driving and act accordingly.

Google uses the all-encompassing term "wearable display" but uses smart glasses as an example. Google recently revealed at CES that it was bringing back its failed Glass project. Microsoft now has its HoloLens technology, and the Chinese tech company Xiaomi just announced its augmented reality glasses.


Xiaomi revealed its product on the 27th of February, while Google filed its patent on the 28th, which is quite a coincidence. That means it's speculation time and entirely possible Google is putting this patent into the system in expectation of wearable display makers wanting to use processor-based detection to restrict distraction when driving. Or Google realizes that's going to be the most reliable and effective way of implementing the restrictions, and it expects laws to pass requiring products to do so. Either way, it looks like Google wants a slice of every wearable display sold.


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