Apple insists that it should not be held responsible for road accidents occurring when drivers are distracted by their products.
The Cupertino tech giant appeared in a Los Angeles Superior Court last Thursday to defend itself in a class action lawsuit filed by California resident Julio Ceja. The complaint against Apple accuses the company of putting profit before safety, specifically regarding the lack of a feature that restricts an iPhone’s use when being used behind the wheel. During the proceedings, Apple reiterated that it’s solely a driver’s fault if they intentionally “misuse” an iPhone while operating a motor vehicle, according to court documents filed electronically by the Los Angeles County Superior Court of California.
The case, Julio Ceja v. Apple, Inc., was first filed in January. The suit asserts that, by not installing a lock-out mechanism for iOS devices, the company is participating in “unfair business acts and practices” in violation of California state law. Deja also alleged that Apple, due to its massive market share in the U.S., is the “largest contributor” to texting and driving. “If texting and driving is a vessel of trouble, Apple is the caption of the ship,” the complaint reads.
It’s not the first time that Apple has seen lawsuits concerning its technology and driving. Last week, a U.S. district court in Texas dismissed a similar complaint levied at Apple last year. The judge in that case, Robert W. Schroeder III, said the plaintiff was at fault due to improper driving. “When a driver negligently operates her vehicle because she is engaging in compulsive or addictive behaviors … it is the driver’s negligence in those activities that causes any resulting injuries,” Schroeder III said.
Similarly, another lawsuit was filed in Texas in 2015. In a statement provided to the New York Times, Apple doubled-down that it is the driver’s responsibility to avoid using an iPhone while operating a vehicle. “We discourage anyone from allowing their iPhone to distract them by typing, reading or interacting with the display while driving,” Apple wrote.
Ceja contends that iOS needs a feature that uses motion or scenery analysis to automatically determine whether a device is being used by the driver of a moving vehicle. Ceja went on to point out that Apple has a patent concerning such technology, but is willfully refusing to employ it, “choosing instead to allow the massive carnage to occur.”
While it’s true that the technology mentioned in the patent has yet to be deployed across Apple’s devices, the company is debuting a Do Not Disturb While Driving feature in its upcoming iOS 11 software. The feature, while optional, will mute all notifications when it connects to a vehicle on Bluetooth, or when it detects rapid acceleration.