Apple patent image

Apple patent image, courtesy United States Patent and Trademark Office

Apple is patenting a system to prevent texting while driving, according to news reports. Lance Whitney writes for CNET that although there are several apps on the market that are designed to prevent that distracted driving activity, Apple’s is a more automated solution, and “could put up more of a roadblock.”

The patent, published Tuesday and called “Driver handheld computing device lock-out,” would provide several ways to cut off texting and other cell phone features for someone who is driving, Whitney writes. One scenario involves the car signaling the phone to disable texting and other features once the car starts, but would require cooperation from automakers, he writes.

Another approach the patent describes sounds more complex, but would be easier to implement, Whitney writes. In that approach, Apple would use the phone’s onboard sensors to determine if a car is moving faster than a certain speed, and Apple’s scenery analyzer would use the phone’s camera to determine if the driver is holding the phone. At that point, the system could automatically disable texting and other functions, Whitney writes.

The systems that Apple’s patent covers would take the process a step further than Apple’s CarPlay technology does, writes Stephanie Lmot for PC, and would most likely be integrated into CarPlay. However, as Whitney notes, “a patent filing doesn’t mean the technology will ever hit the real world.”

Whitney recommends several apps to use in the meantime to prevent distracted driving, including, which reads you your text messages and emails as you are driving; AT&T’s DriveMode, which can send an automatic response to texts you receive while driving; and Textecution, which provides a way for parents to disable a young driver’s texting while driving.

Adnan Farooqui, reporting for ubergizmo about Apple’s new patent, notes that despite lots of media coverage about the dangers of texting while driving, “unfortunately there are still a lot of drivers out there [who] put their lives and the lives of others at risk.” He adds that he hopes that the technology that Apple is patenting will make roads safer around the world.

Lmot quotes Apple from the patent:

‘New laws are being written to make texting illegal while driving,’ Apple said in the document. ‘However, law enforcement officials report that their daily ability to catch offenders is limited because the texting device can be used out of sight, thus making texting while driving even more dangerous.’

As this blog has reported, there have been recent efforts to stop distracted driving in Colorado and nationally. Colorado State Representative Jovan Emerson Melton (D-Aurora) proposed a bill earlier this year to limit the use of smartphones while driving and prohibit drivers from using smartphone apps. And the U.S. Department of Transportation launched a major distracted-driving prevention campaign earlier this month.

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