Apple tech takes on distracted driving, blocks users from texting while behind the wheel

Posted:
in General Discussion edited April 2014
A new piece of technology unearthed on Tuesday shows Apple has developed iPhone technology that automatically shuts off texting capabilities when it is determined that a user is driving, helping to mitigate potential accidents resulting from in-car distractions.

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With Apple's automotive projects -- Car Play and Siri Eyes Free -- rolling out in more vehicles throughout the year, the company has been beefing up its in-car technology suite. A document discovered on Tuesday, however, shows Apple's "iOS in the car" initiatives go back much further than iOS 7.

The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office issued Apple U.S. Patent No. 8,706,143 for "Driver handheld computing device lock-out," a system that intelligently determines whether a device user is driving and shuts off distracting phone functions accordingly.

There are two main embodiments to Apple's invention. The first concentrates on a lock-out mechanism that requires no input from a vehicle and instead uses on-board sensors to determine when a user is driving. In the second embodiment, the car is able to transmit blocking signals to an iPhone, effectively stopping a user from receiving and sending texts, or using other smartphone functions while in the driver's seat.


Source: USPTO


Without input from the car, an iPhone relies on data from a motion analyzer and a scenery analyzer to trigger a lock-out mechanism. As described, accelerometers, cameras, light sensors, GPS receivers and other sensing components can be deployed to harness raw data.

The motion analyzer monitors device speed up to a certain threshold that, when reached, is indicative of a car in motion. Making the system more accurate is data from an iPhone's GPS and accelerometer, which can be used to discern whether a user is walking, running or in a moving motor vehicle.

The scenery analyzer is more complicated in that some embodiments require image acquisition and processing to determine when a device holder is in a "safe" or "unsafe" operating area. For example, the analyzer algorithm may find that a user is in the driver's seat by analyzing a photo or video that shows one face and a steering wheel.

Alternatively, if the analyzer sees two faces, one in the driver's seat and another in the passenger or rear seat, the device may be classified as in a "safe area." Further, an accelerometer can be used to ensure the person holding the device does not pan away from the driving cockpit to avoid analysis.

Once recognition and analysis are complete, the lock-out mechanism may be activated according to preset rules. For example, texting may be blocked when a device holder is found to be driving.



The second embodiment is fairly straightforward, with the car in communication with the iPhone via RFID or active radio signals. In this case, onboard sensors, a wireless ignition key or other proximity-sensing devices can communicate a blocking signal to the nearby phone, disabling texting and other distracting features.

Another notable function of Apple's invention is a parental lock-out function that disables user-selectable smartphone features associated with a specific key or phone.

It is unclear if Apple intends to incorporate the lock-out functionality in a future iOS version, though no mention of the feature was made in CarPlay's introduction. As noted in the patent document, however, such a mechanism would be "a significant selling point in the eyes of concerned parents, and it could lead to legislation that would require all handheld computing devices to disable texting while driving."

Apple's handheld device lock-out patent was first filed for in 2008 and credits John Greer Elias as its inventor.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 73
    That we need technology to safeguard us from stupid behaviour is sad. That the technology might come is good news.
  • Reply 2 of 73
    marvfoxmarvfox Posts: 2,275member

    I am glad Apple is introducing this now. Maybe less deaths will not happen with this new technology they are producing.Texting and driving is a slow suicide for both driver and pedestrian.

  • Reply 3 of 73
    vaporlandvaporland Posts: 358member
    Tape over the camera will defeat this dumb idea.

    Let Darwinism take it's natural course (other drivers notwithstanding).
  • Reply 4 of 73
    wingswings Posts: 261member
    "Tape over the camera will defeat this dumb idea."

    Let's see ... you get in your car ...
    Doors locked - check.
    Seat belt fastened - check.
    Engine start - check.
    Clear to move - check.
    Peel of some tape from the dash mounted dispenser, place over camera lens - check.

    Think much?
  • Reply 5 of 73
    vaporlandvaporland Posts: 358member
    "Tape over the camera will defeat this dumb idea."

    Let's see ... you get in your car ...
    Doors locked - check.
    Seat belt fastened - check.
    Engine start - check.
    Clear to move - check.
    Peel of some tape from the dash mounted dispenser, place over camera lens - check.

    Think much?

    I'd just leave the tape on all the time. Wouldn't FaceTime while driving be "distracted driving"?

    I never use the forward-facing camera, though the NSA probably does.
  • Reply 6 of 73
    vaporland wrote: »
    I'd just leave the tape on all the time. Wouldn't FaceTime while driving be "distracted driving"?

    I never use the forward-facing camera, though the NSA probably does.

    I'm pretty sure the NSA has better things to do than look at you all day.
  • Reply 7 of 73
    iaeeniaeen Posts: 588member
    How does this thing differentiate between driving a car vs. riding as a passenger?
  • Reply 8 of 73
    So my pregnant wife, who is due to give birth any day, would not be able to send me a text because the phone has decided that I am driving and it would therefore be unsafe?

    The day Apple implements this "feature" is the day I get rid of my iPhone.
  • Reply 9 of 73
    lilgto64lilgto64 Posts: 1,147member

    How many accidents will be caused by people trying to figure out what the goram phone won't send a text?

    Or stop on the side of the highway to send/receive? What if your car rolls over and you are trying to call 911 while pinned by the crushed dashboard between the steering wheel and driver's seat?

    Since when did Apple deploy (not just invent and discard) technology that made it more difficult to use their products while being so easily defeated that it is simply a waste of resources? 

    What if you have an elaborate setup in your basement for your driving games? 

    If the driving force here is tapping otherwise unspent processing power - why not use it to create a defensive driving subsystem where each phone sends out data regrading position and vector that others can use to determine if they are on a collision course or not and alert the user appropriately? 

    Or a crash detector - where after the accelerometers etc determine that you have been in a crash, Siri asks you if you would like her to call 911 and if you do not respond with a clear NO then she auto dials 911 with your location and a message that there has been an accident. 

  • Reply 10 of 73
    vaporlandvaporland Posts: 358member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Another Snarky Hipster View Post

     
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by vaporland View Post



    I'd just leave the tape on all the time. Wouldn't FaceTime while driving be "distracted driving"?



    I never use the forward-facing camera, though the NSA probably does.




    I'm pretty sure the NSA has better things to do than look at you all day.

     

    https://www.google.com/search?q=hacking+cellphone+cameras 

     

    {About 6,470,000 results (0.25 seconds)}

     

    Given well known (and unknown) security flaws, I'm perfectly happy blocking a forward-facing camera that I never use...

  • Reply 11 of 73
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by TailsToo View Post



    So my pregnant wife, who is due to give birth any day, would not be able to send me a text because the phone has decided that I am driving and it would therefore be unsafe?



    The day Apple implements this "feature" is the day I get rid of my iPhone.

    something tells me it's not as cut and dry as that. We shall see though.

  • Reply 12 of 73
    pmzpmz Posts: 3,433member
    This completely ridiculous and I will abandoned iPhone over it if this is forced upon me with no way of Disabling.

    It's not that I need to text and drive. It's about control. Apple has no right to control such things. For that matter, human beings must stop accepting such bullahit. You so not need laws and restrictions to protect you from yourself...what you need is common sense. We need to advocate the spread of common sense and knowledge....not treat EVERYONE like idiots for the sake of a few.

    This is absolute WRONG way to handle these issues and I will protest it til the end. If Apple ever forces this upon me, I will demand they remove it or take my iPhone back and refund my money, along with all the money I've spent getting into the iPhone ecosystem.
  • Reply 13 of 73
    pmzpmz Posts: 3,433member
    lilgto64 wrote: »
    How many accidents will be caused by people trying to figure out what the goram phone won't send a text?
    Or stop on the side of the highway to send/receive? What if your car rolls over and you are trying to call 911 while pinned by the crushed dashboard between the steering wheel and driver's seat?
    Since when did Apple deploy (not just invent and discard) technology that made it more difficult to use their products while being so easily defeated that it is simply a waste of resources? 
    What if you have an elaborate setup in your basement for your driving games? 
    If the driving force here is tapping otherwise unspent processing power - why not use it to create a defensive driving subsystem where each phone sends out data regrading position and vector that others can use to determine if they are on a collision course or not and alert the user appropriately? 
    Or a crash detector - where after the accelerometers etc determine that you have been in a crash, Siri asks you if you would like her to call 911 and if you do not respond with a clear NO then she auto dials 911 with your location and a message that there has been an accident. 

    We don't need any of this. Some people just don't know when to stop.
  • Reply 14 of 73
    imemberimember Posts: 247member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by TailsToo View Post



    So my pregnant wife, who is due to give birth any day, would not be able to send me a text because the phone has decided that I am driving and it would therefore be unsafe?



    The day Apple implements this "feature" is the day I get rid of my iPhone.

    Who is more important? the big Dude that u just hit him with ur car or ur pregnant wife?

     

    The Right answer is -THE BIG DUDE because he decides if you live or die

  • Reply 15 of 73
    icoco3icoco3 Posts: 1,472member
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by marvfox View Post

     

    ...Maybe less deaths will not happen...


     

    That is a double negative...<img class=" src="http://forums-files.appleinsider.com/images/smilies//lol.gif" />

  • Reply 16 of 73
    lilgto64lilgto64 Posts: 1,147member

    I agree that far too many people are far too wrapped up in their phones instead of what is happening right in front of them. 

     

    Both my cars are manual transmission because when I drive I want to be in active control of the process of what is happening as possible. When I operate a motor vehicle it is something I am engaged in doing not just something that happens. 

     

    Maybe what we need is an app that determines when the user is a piss-poor driver and shuts their car down until they go back to driver's ed. 

  • Reply 17 of 73
    icoco3icoco3 Posts: 1,472member
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by lilgto64 View Post



    ...

    Maybe what we need is an app that determines when the user is a piss-poor driver and shuts their car down until they go back to driver's ed. 


     

    There would no one left on the road except ME!!

  • Reply 18 of 73
    rob53rob53 Posts: 2,946member

    This capability already exists in my 2013 Toyota Tacoma. The hands-free dialing capability (connected to my iPhone) won't function as long as the truck is moving. Stop and it works. I can use the music features through the touch-screen stereo but it doesn't handle text. I need to check this but I also believe the stereo takes over the phone so I can't use the music feature or maybe even text while it's connected to the stereo. I can still receive phone calls.

     

    Yes, this upsets me at times but all I have to do is wait for a stop light or pull over, something everyone should do anyway, along with stopping to put on makeup, shave, yell at your kids in the back seats, and even eat (as long as you only need one hand I think you should be able to eat and drive but drinking should require a lid).

  • Reply 19 of 73
    lilgto64lilgto64 Posts: 1,147member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by rob53 View Post

     

    This capability already exists in my 2013 Toyota Tacoma. The hands-free dialing capability (connected to my iPhone) won't function as long as the truck is moving. Stop and it works. I can use the music features through the touch-screen stereo but it doesn't handle text. I need to check this but I also believe the stereo takes over the phone so I can't use the music feature or maybe even text while it's connected to the stereo. I can still receive phone calls.

     

    Yes, this upsets me at times but all I have to do is wait for a stop light or pull over, something everyone should do anyway, along with stopping to put on makeup, shave, yell at your kids in the back seats, and even eat (as long as you only need one hand I think you should be able to eat and drive but drinking should require a lid).


     

    My wife's 2013 CR-V will read text based text messages to you while driving - but won't show it on the screen unless the car is in park. 

     

    That doesn't stop you from picking up the phone and looking / answering directly on the device. I haven't tried but I think the voice recognition texting would still work - so could get a text, have the car read it, the activate Siri to say "Send a Text to _____," and the message.

  • Reply 20 of 73
    danielswdanielsw Posts: 906member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by TailsToo View Post



    So my pregnant wife, who is due to give birth any day, would not be able to send me a text because the phone has decided that I am driving and it would therefore be unsafe?



    The day Apple implements this "feature" is the day I get rid of my iPhone.

    The idea is that drivers should pull over and stop before texting. Your pregnant wife just might be smart enough to do that.

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