back to article Apple patent LOCKS drivers out of their OWN PHONES

Apple has patented a system that will automatically detect when a user is driving, and lock out texting and other potentially distracting activities. The company writes in patent No. 8,706,143, published Tuesday by the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), that the proposed system could use some combination of synching, …


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  1. Trollslayer Silver badge

    Class action

    No, not by Apple but from people who are wrong stopped from using items they own.

    1. Bullseyed

      Re: Class action

      I assume this will not be on by default, but who knows. Once this kind of thing exists from someone like Apple, insurance companies will start using it. Don't have your anti-texting app on? Welcome to double insurance premiums!

    2. N13L5


      Apple designing the nanny phone.

      You should have expected that garbage from the walled garden people.

      Boycott Crapple, Microcruft and Scroogle's SD-card-slot-lacking Nexus devices.

  2. Paul E

    How exactly

    Is this system supposed to distinguish between unsafe and safe if its being held low and with the front point up towards the roof?

    1. Bullseyed

      Re: How exactly

      If the car door is on the left, you're in the driver seat (in the USA anyway)

      1. Paul E

        Re: How exactly

        Don't think the camera is that wide angle is it? all it will see is your head and the roof.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Thumb Down

        Re: How exactly

        If the car door is on the left, you're in the driver seat (in the USA anyway)

        Mmm, get a lot of back-seat drivers over where you are do you?

        I'm thankful I don't have an iPhone. Given I often sit in the seat they depict (one distinctly lacking in any vehicle controls) such a system would needlessly bar me, whilst letting the driver sitting to my right text away scot free.

        1. Anonymous Coward

          Re: How exactly

          And whilst not normally in the habit of replying to my own posts, I thought I'd point out a little interesting fact…

          Here in Australia, the design rules dictate cars that are right-hand drive (as implied above). However, it is quite legal to drive a left-hand drive car on Australian roads (it's possible that they require special permission, I haven't investigated). They're rare, but do exist. There are also dual-control vehicles such as garbage collection trucks.

          So any software is going to have to rely on more than just the position within the vehicle, but will also have to take into account the type of vehicle and where the steering wheel(s) is(are) located. This may be possible by means of the camera: then the software has to account for the wide variances in the visual appearance of various cars, and what the steering wheel might look like.

          Then there's the problem of vehicles without a steering wheel: motorcycles, bicycles, quad-bikes, as others have already eluded to.

          In order for this to work, it'll either need some specialised hardware in the vehicle to accurately derive a location for the device in question within the vehicle, or will require significant computing power to process a snapshot stream from the on-board camera in order to identify visually where in the vehicle the device is being used.

          It'll probably be too complex to be practical.

      3. F0rdPrefect

        Re: How exactly

        Yes but not in the UK, Australia, India and about 47 others.

        And have you never seen a right hand drive vehicle in the USA?

        I've only been there 3 times and have seen more than one.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: How exactly

          I see you've got the same sort of "infrastructure and service blindess" as many Americans. If it's part of how things work, it's part of the scenery and not registered.

          the entire fleet of the US Postal Service delivery jeeps comes to mind. Most, if not all, are right hand drive. They're all over and impossible to miss, but easily ignored.

    2. J. R. Hartley Silver badge

      The title is no longer required

      No more people talking shite on the bus home then...

  3. ecofeco Silver badge

    Drvierless cars...

    ...cannot come soon enough.

    1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: Drvierless cars...

      They already exist. Have done for may, many years.

      Just because there's a meatbag hanging onto the steering wheel doesn't mean s/he is a driver. At least not based on what I see on our roads every day.

      1. ecofeco Silver badge

        Re: Drvierless cars...

        "They already exist. Have done for may, many years.

        Just because there's a meatbag hanging onto the steering wheel doesn't mean s/he is a driver. At least not based on what I see on our roads every day."

        BA DUMP BA!

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Is this a patent for an actual implementation or is it a hand-wavy " we've got all these measuring thingies and this data and stuff, so we're sure we can do this although we haven't actually worked out how yet" type of patent ? I guess the latter is much more valuable.

    1. Grikath

      the latter, and the usual tripe at that..

      This isn't an invention, this is simply mashing up some existing tech into something that provides a false sense of security.

      Mind... wouldn't pass as a patent in Europe. Besides being too general and too obvious, they would have to deal with patents in place for devices which use the same technology, or tech combo, that govt's have tried to flog as "the new way to do road tax".

      And *those* still aren't in every car in europe because there was no guarantee that the data they would slurp could not wind up somewhere unwanted, breaking a stack of privacy laws.

    2. Francis Boyle Silver badge

      It's the new Apple masterplan - patent everything they think Google might be going to invent.

  5. poopypants

    GPS/cell handshake/local WiFi are all ways of determining location, and are already used by Google with their turn by turn directions. Obviously if the location changes over time, then you must be moving. It is not a novel idea. If they allow a patent for this, they'll allow one for anything.

    1. Number6

      Too Late

      If they allow a patent for this, they'll allow one for anything.

      Sadly, it seems that the USPTO pretty much do allow anything provided you pay the fee.

      Patents, especially in the US, stifle innovation, exactly the opposite effect to that intended.

      1. Number6

        Re: Too Late

        Ah, someone from the USPTO checking in with a downvote :-)

  6. Matt Piechota

    Toyota is preparing to contest the patent, it's been making cars with rounded corners for years. Michelin is relieved that it doesn't make any perfectly square tires.

  7. Mage Silver badge

    Sack the USPO

    This is crazy.

    Trivial and should not be patentable.

  8. DougS Silver badge

    Idiots will always find a way

    Look for people to be holding their phone over the passenger seat with their right arm extended to be able to text.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The idea of a patent is that the inventor of an idea to be able to capitalise on their investment in developing that idea, not for anyone who can think of an idea to to patent it just because they thought of it.

    If Apple have an actual working prototype of "driver detecting locking" they should be able to patent how it actually works, not obtain patents for every possible combination of technologies which might be put together to make such an idea work.

    The very fact that they can apply for patents for things they haven't actually developed at all, is exactly the opposite of what the patent system is supposed to do, which is protect actual innovation and invention.

    All this does is prevent anyone who might actually consider innovating in this area from being able to do so unless they pay protection money to Apple.

  10. Chris 171


    Nokia Car Mode anyone?

    apple, this is not innovation.

    1. RainbowTrout

      Re: Err...

      My thoughts exactly!

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Is it wrong ?

    Is it wrong that my first thought was that this would prevent someone locked in the trunk from calling for help?

    It's probably wrong...

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    What about on my Harley? Joking.....I don't do text.

    1. TheFatMan

      "What about on my Harley? Joking.....I don't do text."

      Pussy (For not texting, not because you ride a Harley)

      (Actually now I come to think of it......)

      1. LateNightLarry

        texting while driving...

        More fun... How about POLICE texting while riding a motorcycle...

        Tempe, AZ...

        San Antonio, TX...

        Houston, TX (VIDEO)...

        Guess they shouldn't be allowed to issue tickets to other drivers for texting while driving...

  13. Frank N. Stein

    If this is intended to be a feature of iOS 8, I will pass on installing that. If this is to be a feature of iPhone 6, my upgrade isn't until next year, so I will pass on that. If this appears in iPhone 6S, I may just have to pass on that too. That is, if this feature cannot be turned off. If it's an always on type of thing then I'll pass on the iPhone Black Box edition....

  14. Captain DaFt

    Oh great...

    tinfoilhat/ First they get the devices into everybody's hands, then they start using them to censor behaviour.

    'The Twonky' was supposed to be science fiction, not a blueprint for the future! /tinfoilhat

  15. andreas koch

    Apple files a stupid patent application;

    There's a queue on the M25.

    Unusual enough for news?


  16. Mark 85 Silver badge

    Damn.... just when I thought we could put away the shovel

    Apple unloads another truckload of manure. But it they didn't do it, someone else would have and we still be shoveling the crap out of the barn that is the USPTO.

  17. Cardinal

    Oh Apple!

    Beware of unforeseen consequences:

    As the enraged bus driver beats his unresponsive phone furiously on his dashboard.....and stalls the crowded orphanage bus on the rail the white-faced driver of the rapidly approaching munitions train hauls hopelessly on the brake switch.....and stares in horror at the little hands and faces illuminated by the vast headlamp of the juggernaut he was cursed to drive nightly in his dreams forever after!

  18. Anonymous Coward

    Please Apple...

    patent the idea of locking iphones if the owner spent to much time on the loo, that way the WC will not be so smelly for to long.

  19. Kar98

    Too late, Apple. Windows Phone already has driving mode, which lets the user decide and select in advance if he wants his phone send a canned reply to text messages and still route phone calls through the car speakers, or ignore all distractions, etc. Pretty nifty, actually.

    1. DougS Silver badge

      You do realize that has nothing to do with this patent

      Whatever one may think about the patentability of what Apple describes, it has nothing at all to do with what you're suggesting. Apple is talking about having the phone figure out where in the car it is by looking at the windows to decide whether it is being held in the hands of the driver.

      In the highly unlikely event this was behavior you couldn't turn off, one possible fix would be to set it for the UK (if in the US, or the reverse if in the UK) and then it'll let you text as the driver but not the passenger :)

      1. Grikath

        Re: You do realize that has nothing to do with this patent

        Doug, you do realise this means the phone will have to switch on the camera *without your express permission* ...

        If there's one way to get your phone Banned to hell and back in Europe, this would be pretty much it..

      2. DropBear Silver badge

        Re: You do realize that has nothing to do with this patent

        one possible fix would be to set it for the UK

        ...because, erm, a phone that just determined you're moving fast based on GPS data clearly has no way to tell which side of the road you should be driving on wherever you are.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: You do realize that has nothing to do with this patent

          it may know what side of the road you should be driving on, it has no idea what side of the car though.

          For example..

          I go to France. I can either take my UK spec right hand drive car, or, catch the Eurostar and hire a French spec left hand drive car.

          Now, tell me how the phone knows?

  20. M Gale

    Black insulation tape.

    Or white if you got the six-months-later edition. Gotta keep it colour-coordinated.

  21. Old Handle


    Now I'll never have to worry about encountering this "feature" on an Android.

    1. Message From A Self-Destructing Turnip

      Re: Good!

      Or Google Glass?

      Is it a feature Apple want to use in their own products, or just one they want to stop others using in theirs? Its a shame really, it would have been great fun disabling glasshole devices by showing them pictures of steering wheels.

  22. John Tserkezis

    Not content with prevent users from making calls due to Apple's own incometence in designing antennas, now that they've fixed that, they're using a patent to prevent users from making calls.

    Not only that, the patent drawing prevents the front passenger from making calls, while the driver is free to tweet all they want. Seems they still think the world ends at the US borders.

  23. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Nah, it'll be a separate patent and lawsuit for right-hand drive cars.

  24. Kevin Johnston

    Location, location, location

    So if I mount it in a cradle which is fitted to the centre console will it work for everyone or no-one?

    1. DropBear Silver badge

      Re: Location, location, location

      Obviously, in that case you'll need to register your right hand fingerprints, and it'll only work for those...

  25. Velv Silver badge

    So assuming the patent is actually granted, Apple has no option but to release it into the wild and let everybody use the technology covered by the patent for free.

    Charging a licensing fee to competitors would be damaging to public safety.

  26. htq

    Motorola better get ready to be sued

    My Moto X detects when I'm driving and helpfully offers to read out text messages or answer an incoming call by voice confirmation.

    1. buyone

      Apple - give us a job.

      Dear Apple

      I have recently been employed in the Ministry of Silly Walks. I feel sure I can add to the dynamism and inventiveness of your research department by adding a good dollop of fatuousness. I am a complete waste of space, pay me lots of money and I'll take the piss like the rest of your remittance men. I have a complete understanding of your C1 & C2 victims. I have many scenarios where it is inappropriate to be texting, so we will make lots of patents and benefit all of mankind......... who own shares.

      Thank you Apple for looking after me.

      Your future employee with the new Apple brown tongue device.

  27. 45RPM Silver badge

    Good idea - but not one that should be patented. This is an idea that should be mandatory on all devices. In fact, I'd go a stage further and mandate that all screens, regardless of purpose, must be locked out while driving. Sat nav mustn't display a map - the display should be limited to distance and a simple graphic (arrow or roundabout pictograms) that can be understood at a glance.

    Common sense dictates that one should keep ones eyes on the road but, sadly, common sense would appear to be a rare and valuable commodity. So, if drivers can't be trusted to be responsible whilst in charge of a couple of tons of hurtling metal, they must be forced to behave. Draconian, yes, sad that it should have to be so, yes.

    I've seen families torn apart by reckless driving with a gizmo. If you had too then you'd probably be in support of technological solutions like this.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      "Sat nav mustn't display a map"

      Glancing at the mirrors, speedo, warning lights, etc is just as distracting as glancing at the moving map. Should we remove those from cars too?

      1. 45RPM Silver badge

        No. The reason is that a speedometer - especially a speedometer with a needle can be understood at a glance. The speedometer and rev counter are large so that they can be recognised in a fraction of a second. Ancillary dials, such as the clock, fuel gauge, temperature, boost pressure and so forth are small so that they can't be confused with the speedo or rev counter. You could make an argument for removing the rev counter however.

        Warning lights are similarly easy to interpret - and that's the reason why they have a large friendly pictogram on them. It's so that you can understand the message at a glance. Some older cars had the warning lights labelled with text - making them harder to understand at a glance. I don't know of any studies that prove this, however I do have a rather elderly car - so I cite my experience.

        Similarly, mirrors can be interpreted at a glance. Car or cyclist approaching in mirror, don't manoeuvre (simples) - although if you rely only on your mirrors and don't quickly glance over your shoulder before executing a manoeuvre then I recommend that you chat to a motorcyclist or two.

        The problem with a moving map, or a gloriously animated touch user interface where the controls necessarily change depending on context, is that they rely on you to spend time interpreting the content - time that you should be spending looking at the road. So, for a moving map (your choice of example), you can easily see where you are on the map (big arrow or car icon - easy, innit), but you can't quickly see where the map is in the context of the wider world. Now you might argue that a quick button press will sort that out - placing you on the zoomed out view screen - but that just compounds the problem as you're now spending time interacting with the device.

        Once you have set your route, all you really need is a distance to the next manoeuvre, a pictogram representing what that manoeuvre is and, for numbered roads (M1, A38, B456 etc) the road number. Anything else is a distraction.

  28. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    So, it figures out where I am sat and stops certain functions from working...

    when the phone is on the centre console, it can tell if the driver or the passenger is typing?

    when using a right hand drive car in a left hand drive country?

    when hiring a left hand drive car?

    at night?

    driving a McLaren F1?

    if I'm sat behind the driver, it knows I'm in the second row of seats at not in a 2-seater?

    1. 45RPM Silver badge

      In fairness, most of these are edge cases - and a semi evolved eye is better than none. And, in the case of 'If I'm sitting (ftfy) behind the driver, it knows I'm in the second row of seats and (ftfy) not in a 2-seater?' - you didn't read the patent did you?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        I'll ignore the grammar corrections, they're not important. However.. "you didn't read the patent did you?"

        Too bloody right I didn't. I don't have to. Same as I don't have to read any of Apple's patents, for technology they haven't actually created.

        I goes something like this,,,

        A patent to <do something> using one or more of.. bluetooth, NFC (even though they don't use it), wi-fi, GPS, light sensors, proximity sensors, accelerometers, gyroscopes, barometers, cameras, teleporters, phasers, light sabres, transmogrifiers, fairy dust, unicorn shit or hen's teeth. Mix this up in a magic wishing pot, wave a wand and shout "Izzy Whizzy let's get busy", in your best Sooty voice, and add reams of legal crap. Bung all that in an official-looking patent application and wait for it to be granted.

        At no point do you actually have to attempt to develop the technology, idea, thought, whatever. All you do is patent something, and sit back and wait for some poor sod, who has spent years trying to get this to work, to produce a working prototype, and then sue the arse off him. Alternatively, buy them out, absorb them and claim the glory for the brilliant idea you had, all by yourself.

        1. 45RPM Silver badge

          Personally, as I said earlier, I don't think that this should be patented at all. It should be freely available to all device makers, and mandatory.

          Extending that thought, I'm not convinced that patents should be handed out like sweeties. It holds us back, and prevents us achieving all that we can - it requires people to reinvent the wheel in order to avoid spurious patent trolling.

          Copyright on look and feel or source code, fine. I can handle that. Patents? Nope. I don't like that so much!

  29. Justice

    So, a left handed UK passenger visiting France who has GPS switched off to conserve roaming costs is pretty much FUBARED as far as this goes.

    1. 45RPM Silver badge

      Surely not? GPS is a free signal - its not related to the cellular network. So your device will still be able to respond correctly (it just won't be able to download the data necessary to display a map).

  30. Jerry G.

    It would be best to have the phone enabled to be operated by any of the passengers. There was a system devised where the vehicle has a device installed that senses if the phone is in front of the steering column and being held by the driver. It is designed to be very difficult to bypass. Only the local emergency number can be dialed, or the phone can be answered or hung up. There would be some logistics where the phone can not be used for other than emergency (911) unless a hands free unit is working with it.

    The automobile companies would have to get involved. Royalty and patent issues would have to be worked out. This type of system would save a lot of lives. There has to be a serious and costly penalty for those who implement a way to bypass this safety system. The fine has to be at least a few thousand dollars with a court hearing. If the fine is only a few hundred dollars and no court appearance there are many people who would still bypass this. I have personally seen people texting and talking on their phone to their ear while driving. When mentioning they can get a ticket they tell me they don't care because the ticket is not expensive.

  31. Unicornpiss Silver badge
    Thumb Down


    I'll buy one of these about the same time I buy a bottle of booze that automatically cuts me off.

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