On Christmas Eve 2014 a five year old girl was killed in a car wreck. She was riding in a booster in the backseat of her parents’ car when they were rear ended by a man in an SUV. It turns out the man was distracted, using FaceTime (a video chatting app on iPhones), and he plowed into the back of their car at full highway speed. He told police at the scene he was using FaceTime at the time of the crash. When police located his iPhone at the scene the FaceTime app was still active.
The girl’s parents have now filed a lawsuit against Apple alleging the company had the ability to disable the iPhone’s FaceTime app while the user was driving. Despite having the capability to do so, Apple failed to configure the iPhone to lock the FaceTime feature while a car was moving at highway speeds. It appears while Apple does have the technology to potentially do so, Apple does not use it to block functions of iPhones in cars.
In December 2008 Apple filed a patent which would allow the company to disable key features on an iPhone when it detected the phone user was driving. Apple has never taken action on this patent, some speculate because the technology is flawed. It is unable to function when moved into an area that cannot communicate with satellites, and dropping in and out of such areas as you would while driving, makes it unreliable. Other detection methods, like using the camera to detect if the iPhone is located in a safe spot in the car, are not ready yet. Adding another layer of complexity to the technology, it is extremely difficult for phones to determine whether someone is driving a car or merely riding as a passenger.