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Lawsuit Demands Apple Lock iPhones To Stop Texting While Driving
Posted January 21, 2017
Lawsuit Demands Apple Lock iPhones To Stop Texting While Driving
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Apple Sued for Not Using iPhone Safety Fix It Patented
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By Jef Cozza. Updated January 21, 2017 7:27AM

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A new class-action lawsuit filed in California earlier this week aims to hold Apple accountable for a number of automobile accidents caused by drivers getting distracted by their iPhones. The folks behind lawsuit are hoping to force the company to install a new safety feature on its devices to prevent users from texting while they are driving.

According to the suit, Apple has possessed the technology required to implement such a feature since 2008, and was granted a patent for it in 2014. The suit alleges that the company has refused to employ the technology out of fear that doing so would cost it market share.

The complaint is seeking an injunction that would halt the sale of all iPhones in the state of California that do not come with such a lock-out feature, as well as a court order forcing Apple to immediately update all iPhones currently on the market to install the feature.

Worse Than Driving Drunk

The suit was filed in the Los Angeles County Superior Court, January 17, by MLG Automotive Law, on behalf of Julio Ceja, a California resident whose car was struck from behind while stopped at a stoplight, by a driver who was distracted while using her iPhone.

"It has migrated from a menacing problem to a full-blown epidemic of national importance: texting and driving is the single most deadly thing one can do behind the wheel of an automobile," the lawsuit noted. According to the complaint, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has said that texting and driving is six times more dangerous than drinking and driving.

"In a recent study conducted by the NHTSA, it was concluded that drivers take their eyes off the road for an average of 4.6 seconds when sending or receiving a text." The suit added that when driving at 80 miles per hour, that is the equivalent of driving 539 feet, almost the length of two football fields, while wearing a blindfold. The complaint also cited the National Safety Counsel’s 2014 injury and fatality report, which found that cell phone use caused 26 percent of all car accidents in the U.S.

Hundreds of Fatalities Each Year

As many as 1.5 million people may be texting while driving at any given time, according to information from the U.S. Department of Transportation. Meanwhile, the Federal Highway Administration has estimated that California drivers suffer around 500,000 automobile accidents every year. Given Apple's approximate 40 percent market share of the cell phone market, that corresponds to roughly 52,000 accidents a year that are caused by drivers distracted by iPhones in California alone.

Additionally, with approximately 3,000 traffic fatalities in the state annually, the same statistics would imply that every year around 312 fatalities are caused by drivers who are distracted by their iPhones at the time of their accidents.

This lawsuit isn't the only one Apple is facing at the moment. A similar suit against the company was filed a month ago in California's Santa Clara County Superior Court by a family blaming Apple's FaceTime feature for the death of their five-year-old daughter who was riding in the back seat of a car that was rear-ended by a 20-year-old driver. That driver admitted to using FaceTime on his iPhone 6 Plus while driving.

According to that lawsuit, Apple is responsible for the girl's death because of its "failure to install and implement the safer, alternative design for which it sought a patent in December 2008 (later issued by the United States Patent Office in April 2014) to 'lock out' the ability of drivers to utilize the 'FaceTime' application on the Apple iPhone when driving a motor vehicle, which resulted in the injuries sustained by plaintiffs," the girl's family said in the complaint. The family is seeking medical costs and punitive damages.

Tell Us What You Think
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MB:
Posted: 2017-01-25 @ 10:19am PT
How is this the responsibility of Apple to pay attention to driving the vehicle when "you" are in the driver's seat? That's like blaming the makers of cruise control in your vehicle when you set it and let go of the wheel. Who's responsible for your actions, the company that produces a device or the foolish person using the device while they are supposed to be driving?

Redundant Verbosity:
Posted: 2017-01-24 @ 4:07am PT
This is the epitome of stupidity. When will people start accepting responsibilities for their actions?
It has nothing to do with Apple, individuals make foolish choices and they're the ones who should be sued.
Why not sue the car company for not locking the ignition to the car to stop someone from driving while texting?
Perhaps sue starbucks for every driver who had an accident while in possession of a coffee in the car.
How about suing maybelline for those fools who have a fender-bender while putting on their makeup while driving.
Maybe sue the cigarette companies for creating a product which can be smoked and dropped in your lap while driving.
You could sue Ford because someone used one of their cars to get away after a bank robbery.
Or how about the satellite radio company because some idiot was in an accident while tuning the radio.
Surely, it's not the DRIVER who's responsible, right?!!
Put the blame where the blame belongs - on the DRIVER, not the accessories which foolish drivers CHOOSE to use while driving.
Have we hit the apex of idiocracy yet?
I hope Apple sues the driver for tarnishing their name, being named as liable in a frivolous suit such as this - damn gold-diggers.

Sean:
Posted: 2017-01-23 @ 11:14am PT
I do not think it's a bad idea. Have the phone detect when moving above a certain speed and shut down the functions until the vehicle stops (stop light). Give an over-ride option of needing to hit a button saying, "I am not driving, I am a passenger."

C. Howitt Fielz:
Posted: 2017-01-23 @ 5:48am PT
Willie Sutton was asked why he robbed banks and he replied, "Because that's where the money is."

I guess Willie Sutton's law applies to why Apple is always getting sued by people or companies wanting some easy cash. "Because that's where the money is."

I find it somewhat sad how this family is shifting the blame from their daughter to Apple when it is quite clear no driver should be doing anything with any device while behind the wheel of a moving car. I believe most states say it's against the law to text while driving and Facetime would fall into that category with the implication that a driver's attention should be on the road and not on something else. Just a fraction of a second's distraction by a driver can obviously be fatal for the car's occupants or a third-party.

I certainly don't see why Apple has to end up taking the blame for some individual's carelessness. It's not really fair at all. All day long I see people with their attention glued to their smartphones while doing all sorts of activities which could get them injured such as crossing streets and walking in the subways. Should a smartphone ban be necessary just because people are stupid.

How come gun manufacturers never have to take the blame for people getting shot or killed with their products?

Chris:
Posted: 2017-01-22 @ 6:27pm PT
How does a phone distinguish between the driver and a passenger?

God:
Posted: 2017-01-22 @ 11:47am PT
Are you serious? When will people stop shifting the blame of their own existence. This petulant behavior is disgusting and immature. It's YOUR responsibility to be a safe driver and not Apple's.

Dram:
Posted: 2017-01-22 @ 4:20am PT
Craig you're missing the point. Writers and publishers have not invented and patented ways of stopping drivers from reading books. Apple has a patent for locking out iPhones. Which means Apple recognizes the potential commercial value of such a device (else it wouldn't bother taking out a patent) but has chosen not to implemement it, presumably because of the risk that drivers would switch to competitors' products that are not locked out. No doubt Apple will be very happy if legislation is introduced to force all manufacturers to lock-out their phones - because then Apple can license use of its patented technology to its competitors.

Mike:
Posted: 2017-01-22 @ 3:28am PT
The United States is at an angle and everything loose rolls into CA. The state cannot improve the judgement of the people in CA by making law or going afer Apple.

Mike:
Posted: 2017-01-22 @ 2:36am PT
It's a good idea. But it's not clear how their patent could distinguish between a driver or a passenger - at least, not without doing some fairly creepy automatic video capture and analysis of every texting user (and whatever else is visible from the camera), with all the privacy issues that entails. Also, given the complexity of the video scene analysis (and the variety of possible scenery/car interiors/lighting/phone positions/etc), and the need for lots of data on the same to train visual recognition models, I doubt they currently have the ability to implement a bulletproof system. Images would have to be transmitted to their servers (because of the relatively high cpu cost of doing that scene analysis) - thus costing you data - or would have to precipitously drain your phone's battery if run locally (which might only be possible on high end phones). So it's not that surprising that they haven't done it.

Craig:
Posted: 2017-01-21 @ 6:59pm PT
So, if someone plows into the car ahead while reading a book, do you go after the writer or the publisher?

Wait...How about this novel idea? Hold the driver responsible.

Mark:
Posted: 2017-01-21 @ 12:25pm PT
Why not make the fine so large that people won't do it?

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