Apple patents system to curb driver distraction from smartphones
Originally filed in December 2008 but granted this week, the lock-out function is timely as Apple prepares to launch its CarPlay system starting with Ferrari, Mercedes-Benz and Volvo later this year but soon to be extended to 14 other manufacturers shortly afterwards.
CarPlay streams apps from a smartphone to the vehicle’s infotainment display, features intelligent navigation based on recent text and e-mail conversations and allows devices to be controlled via buttons on the steering wheel.
The technology giant said its lock-out system addresses the 80% of accidents caused by distractions and the rise of teenagers texting while driving, adding that the latter is hard to police because devices are usually out of sight.
Most of the functions are based on hardware which is already built into most smartphones and tablets. The patent outlines a system which combines GPS data, distance to local mobile phone masts, an accelerometer and light sensor to identify whether the device is moving above a certain speed, and automatically disable its most distracting features.
This would also add the ability for passengers to deactivate the lock by proving they aren’t driving. The unlock process would require them to pan around the cabin, creating an image which the device could scan to look for objects such as a steering wheel and disable the lock-out once it decides they are a passenger.
Apple has also identified systems to be built into vehicles. These could include a signal telling devices that the ignition is on, likely to be communicated to whatever is connected via CarPlay, or a way of blocking mobile phone signal reaching the driver’s seat, which would allow other occupants to carry on using their smartphones or tablets while the vehicle is moving.
The company said it hoped this would kick-start stricter legislation: ‘The achievement of such a mechanism may 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.’