By on January 19, 2017

Texting and Driving

Apple is facing a legal battle in California for neglecting to implement technology that would prevent iPhone owners from texting behind the wheel.

Filed on Tuesday in Los Angeles County Superior Court, the class-action suit alleges that Apple has possessed the ability to disable texting since 2008, and was granted a patent on it by U.S. Patent and Trademark Office in 2014. The lawsuit wants the company to stop all iPhone sales until it installs safety-oriented software on all devices — new and old — via an update. 

Representatives for plaintiff Julio Ceja highlight the persistent risks involved with texting and driving, citing research that attributes cell phone usage to 26 percent of all car accidents in United States. Ceja was stopped at a red light when his vehicle struck from behind by a driver who was using her iPhone. Despite the singular plaintiff, the trial is set up to represent all California residents deemed at risk as a result of Apple neglecting to install a lock-out feature on its mobile devices.

In November, the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration issued “voluntary guidelines” for smartphone makers, urging companies to develop a way to prevent access to non-driving tasks such as web browsing, video playback, camera functions, and text messaging whenever a vehicle is in motion. The move met with immediate criticism.

Apple has faced similar lawsuits in the past. The company saw legal action from a family struck by a driver using FaceTime on Christmas Eve, 2014, and another family hit by a woman who was checking her iPhone messages from behind the wheel of a Ram pickup in 2013.

In response to the 2013 incident, Apple said its official position was that responsibility falls on the operator of a vehicle to avoid distraction. “We discourage anyone from allowing their iPhone to distract them by typing, reading or interacting with the display while driving,” Apple said in a statement provided to The New York Times. “For those customers who do not wish to turn off their iPhones or switch into Airplane Mode while driving to avoid distractions, we recommend the easy-to-use Do Not Disturb and Silent Mode features.”

Apple has yet to publicly comment on the current case.

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44 Comments on “Apple Faces Class-Action Lawsuit Demanding It Block Users from Texting and Driving...”

  • avatar

    Next up: someone sues Budweiser because it makes beer bottles that can be opened while driving.

    Worth noting: I’m dead set against things like over-reforming torts, but nonsense like this just makes the over-reformers’ case for them.

    • 0 avatar

      If Budweiser patented a bottle that couldn’t be opened in a car seven years ago which would cost nothing to implement, then you can bet that lawsuit would be playing out just like this one. Perhaps proponents of the tort casino are to blame.

      • 0 avatar

        I don’t know the patent, but it sounded like it was based on vehicle movement. So what about passengers? What about people using their phone for navigation? There is a darn good chance any defeat device would make the phone either a burden, or else make folks who choose to ignore the laws that much more dangers. Lets be real honest here, it was safer when people could text and drive and hold the phone up by the window. I know on my “Waze” app, it asks if I’m a passenger. Well high speed, I’m going to lie, but thanks for forcing me to take that extra second away from the road to look for the darn button so you can say it’s not your fault.

        • 0 avatar

          Yeah, “patenting something that could be used to do this, with side effects that make it effectively unworkable and nobody would buy/use it” is poor grounds for a suit.

          Apple will reply that they didn’t make people do stupid things, that it is widely known that distracted driving is dangerous and usually illegal, and they are not remotely to blame.

          And they’ll win.

          • 0 avatar

            Yep, Apple will win…and it’ll spend millions of dollars in the process.

            The only winners in this are the lawyers.

          • 0 avatar

            “Yep, Apple will win…and it’ll spend millions of dollars in the process.”

            Apple made millions of dollars in the time it took you to write that comment.

  • avatar

    Except that’s like totally not an iPhone in the photo, right?

    • 0 avatar

      BlackBerry Torch. Model name 9800. Came right after the Bold series (9000 and 9700). I had both a 9000 and 9700 and considered a 9800 back in the day before I realized they were total crap.

      Side note: You can get a BlackBerry Torch for $29 on eBay, according to Google.

  • avatar
    Master Baiter

    While we’re talking vehicle safety, what about women farding while driving?

  • avatar

    I don’t contest that texting and driving is a significant issue, but this is stupid.

    I use my phone on the train, and a shuttle bus for part of my commute. How would the phone know that is was not driving? I have picked up my wife’s phone while she is driving and vice-versa, again, how would the phone know any different?

    • 0 avatar

      The way the GasBuddy app deals with the distracted driver issue is to display an alert if it detects the phone is moving at car like speeds and requires the user acknowledge that they are a passenger before allowing any further interaction with the app.

      Once the user acknowledges they are the passenger then the app (or phone vendor in Apples case) is off the hook legally. Of course as the driver you could press the passenger acknowledgement button and continue to do your devilish deeds despite the warning.

      Clearly the phone can’t know if you are in the driver’s seat or not, but an app or phone vendor can take measures to discourage phone interaction while driving.

      • 0 avatar

        NM Roads has an app for road conditions etc and every time you open the app (or the mobile version of the site) a warning pops up “I promise I am not driving”.

        It always makes me smile because when are you most likely to need the info?

      • 0 avatar

        “Clearly the phone can’t know if you are in the driver’s seat or not, but an app or phone vendor can take measures to discourage phone interaction while driving.”

        Anyone who will text while driving will spend another few seconds with their eyes off the road bypassing the lawyer screen so they can text while driving. Implementation of this idea will probably only cause text related crashes to increase incrementally.

  • avatar

    I’ve been accused on numerous occasions of being a big govn’t hippie libtard and even *I* think this is stupid.

    What about passengers? What about riding in a bus or on a train? What about personal accountability?

    • 0 avatar

      “What about personal accountability?”

      “personal accountability” won’t put my leg back on after your texting @ss knocked me off of my motorcycle.

      people demonstrate over and over that they CANNOT be trusted to put the phone down and pay attention to the road. not one damn bit.

      personally, I’d like to see the law changed where if a police officer cites you for using a mobile device while driving, he/she *confiscates* your phone and you can get it back from the police station after paying the fine. That might get the message across.

      • 0 avatar

        I don’t disagree with your points and I see it here in Chicago a lot. That said, the “penalize the majority because of the actions of a minority of jerks” doesn’t play well with me.

        Honestly, I’d let them keep the phone and impound the car for 30 days.

  • avatar

    I think this is ridiculous, and if the cell phone companies are forced to implement it based on GPS-determined speed it would also prevent passengers in cars/buses/trains from using their phones as well.

    Kind of like in my truck, some of the features on the touch screen in the middle are locked out when I’m driving, so my wife can’t even use them even though there’s no way it would be distracting to me if she did.

    Of course for those using public transit, having a reason to actually talk to other humans in public again isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it’d be a bitter thing if it were forced on us by taking away the ability to use our phones.

    • 0 avatar

      I recently bought a Hyundai after driving a cadillac.

      Do you know how many times I almost died (literally) because even a passenger couldn’t update GPS coordinates. I’d literally end up stopping in the middle of the road, put the car in “park” just so I can get unlost. I’d get a lot of middle fingers and honks, but I don’t know what else to do. (I’d try to get in the median or side of the road when possible, but sometimes that wasn’t)

      I was so refreshed when my Hyundai lets my passenger update GPS coordinates while the car was driving… Ahhh.

      • 0 avatar

        “Do you know how many times I almost died (literally) because even a passenger couldn’t update GPS coordinates. I’d literally end up stopping in the middle of the road, put the car in “park” just so I can get unlost.”

        If you’re being serious, you shouldn’t be allowed to have a drivers license.

  • avatar

    If Apple blocks texting while driving, the texters will just switch to a phone that lets them continue as usual. If it’s to be done at all, it must be by government regulation so that all phone manufacturers are affected.

  • avatar

    How would this work for a passenger in a car? I would hate to have to actually talk to my wife on a car trip.

  • avatar

    Well, the stories linked through this one seem to say that right now the technology that determines whether the phone is being operated by a driver (rather than a passenger) are not baked yet, so the defense has a pretty good argument IMO.

    That aside, it would be nice if all phones had a reliable installation of what Windows phones can do, which is (once paired to the car via Bluetooth) announce any incoming texts via the vehicle audio and immediately give the recipient the option to dictate a reply without having to take an extra step to call Siri or Google first. (Well, as is typical in Android, randoms have written unreliable apps that occasionally allow this to work, but there ought to be a real commercial app, or maybe Apple and Google could pull their heads out of their backsides and add that function to the base OS.) Could save a lot of phone fumbling in the car.

  • avatar

    I’m growing really tired of this nanny state nonsense.Any technical control put on the device can be bypassed. How about just growing up and putting the phone down?

  • avatar

    These lawyers have an interesting slideshow on their webpage

  • avatar

    Time to call exit altogether… CalExit.

  • avatar

    And what are you gonna do when I disable my accelerometer and gps while driving?

  • avatar

    Just wanted to point out, Android already has this.

    It doesn’t “force it”, but Android Auto is available to android handsets with NO NEED to connect to an android auto system.

    it’ll even turn on automatically when it connects to your car, reducing the ability to use the phone while driving.

  • avatar

    And what of the passengers who have nothing to do with driving the car? Should they be prevented from texting too because the software can’t tell which one is the driver?

  • avatar
    Kyree S. Williams

    I don’t see this going well for the plaintiffs. The argument that a device’s manufacturer is liable for any ways in which it can be misused to promote negligence and bodily injury…is a slippery one. The implications of ruling against Apple are huge.

    • 0 avatar

      Good point, I mean, what if gun manufacturers patented a camera system for weapons that detected children in the bullet’s approximate path and wouldn’t fire?

      Or umpteen car variants to keep you from backing over/running over folks, driving while intoxicated, driving while sleepy, driving with your eyes not on the road, etc etc. – ALL of those technologies exist. One could even argue that massive, wide scale deployment of them would prevent them from costing an arm and a leg, especially in future versions.

      Instead, why not just teach the cars to drive? Then NONE of this is necessary.

  • avatar

    “the singular plaintiff”? Singular means one-of-a-kind, it is not synonymous with “single” – which I think is what you meant to say.

  • avatar

    Here we go again. Just as it’s the gun’s fault for killing someone and not the person shooting it or it’s the teacher’s fault because a student it acting rotten and has has a poor upbringing.

    And the answer to everything- throw scads of technology at it. Yes that will fix everything.

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