Could One of Apple’s Patents Prevent Texting & Driving?

May. 22nd, 2017   /  

Could One of Apple’s Patents Prevent Texting & Driving?

Our Delray Beach personal injury lawyers have written about the dangers of texting and driving. We have also posted about local, legislative efforts to curb the epidemic. Of course Apple Inc. does not have the ability to unilaterally make texting and driving illegal. (And even if it did, there is little proof that making the practice illegal would have a significant effect—people still do things that are against the law!). Could One of Apple’s Patents Prevent Texting & Driving?

But Apple likely has the technological capability to block drivers from using their phones while operating motor vehicles. And given that distracted driving contributes to 8 deaths and more than 1,160 car crashes every day here in the U.S., the ability to stop texting and driving might mean the difference between life and death. The statement that Apple has the technology to stop texting and driving is not based on the educated guesses of our Delray Beach personal injury lawyers.

Apple currently has ownership of patented technology which would allow it to disable the use of cell phones while their operator is driving. The published patent—appropriately named “Driver handheld computing device lock-out” is U.S. Patent No. 8,706,143. It was filed on December 12, 2008, and was granted to Apple on April 22, 2014. In the description of the invention, the patent states that the “lock-out mechanisms disable the ability of a handheld computing device to perform certain functions, such as texting, while one is driving.” As our Delray Beach attorneys know, patents are not issued unless the inventors demonstrate that they can actually make and use the technology—in other words, patents do not issue for simple guesses. So we are pretty sure that Apple could use the technology if it wanted to.

The patent—complete with descriptions and sketches—describes technology which uses built-in motion analyzers and scenery analyzers in order to determine when a smartphone should be disabled. One of the patent’s images is a sketch of a car, with the driver seat area marked “unsafe operating area,” and the passenger’s seat and backseat area of the car marked “safe operating area.” In theory, an iPhone, signaling its presence in the unsafe operating area, would have some or all of its functions disabled until the phone is removed from the unsafe operating area. This, as our personal injury lawyers know, could be a game changer in terms of roadway safety.

However, even if Apple chooses not to use its technology, society will not be at a loss forever. As U.S. patents last generally 20 years from the date of application, our Delray Beach personal injury lawyers understand that Apple’s patent on this technology will likely expire in 2028. Still, we shouldn’t have to wait another 11 years to use technology that could save lives. Perhaps more so than the legislators in state and national governing bodies, Apple—producer of the world-famous and omnipresent iPhone—is in an especially unique position to reduce the ability of smartphone users to text and drive.

Aronberg, Aronberg & Green is not the only firm to raise awareness about the fact that Apple’s patented technology could be saving lives. A law firm in California has filed a lawsuit (a hopeful class action) against Apple over the issue. The named plaintiff claims that he was rear-ended by a texting driver, and is asking a judge to block the sale of iPhones in California until Apple enables the lockout feature described in its patent.

If you or a loved one have been injured in an accident caused by the negligence or wrongdoing of another (including by somebody who was texting and driving), please contact our experienced Delray Beach personal injury lawyers at Aronberg, Aronberg & Green by calling 561-266-9191 or by e-mailing us at daronberg@aronberglaw.com. Please reach out to us to set up a free consultation. We look forward to assisting you.

 

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