Apple has technology to prevent drivers from texting on their iPhones but failed to deploy it, leading to an epidemic of distracted driving and “carnage” on the roads.
That’s the allegation of Julio Ceja, a California man who says he was rear-ended by a texting driver, and who wants a judge to halt all iPhone sales in the state until Apple enables a “lockout” feature to stop motorists using their phones.
Ceja’s lawsuit, filed in Los Angeles state court, claims Apple’s (AAPL) failure to activate the lockout feature is a violation of California’s consumer protection laws, and seeks to include other accident victims as part of a class action.
As evidence that Apple could stop drivers from texting, the lawsuit points to U.S. Patnet 8706143, which the company filed for in 2008 and received in 2014. Titled “Driver Handheld Computer Lockout Device,” the patent describes a way to disable handheld computing devices using a “motion analyzer” and “scenery analyzer.”
Here’s an image from the patent:
Apple, which is facing a similar lawsuit from the parents of a young girl killed by a driver using FaceTime, did not immediately respond to a request for comment about the lawsuit.
Ceja’s lawsuit also cites statistics that purportedly show texting and driving has become a bigger menace than impaired driving. It claims without firm evidence there are 52,000 accidents in California every year a result of iPhones, and that 16 people die on U.S. roads every day as a result of texting and driving.
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According to Jonathan Michaels of MLG Automotive Law, who filed the complaint on Ceja’s behalf, the problem can only be solved with a technological solution.
“Legislating against drivers will unfortunately not solve the problem,” said Michaels in a release. “The relationship consumers have with their phones is just too great, and the ability to slide under the eye of the law is just too easy. Embedding lock-out devices is the only solution.”