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Apple’s Lock-Out Mechanism Against Distracted Driving Revealed

April 29, 2014
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At a time when cars are more connected, drivers are more distracted than ever. Distracted driving is a problem that have started with the use of gadgets such as cellphones, and is now an issue made worse by in-car technology. Interestingly, one of the developers of in-car tech has been aware of how gadgets can put drivers at risk and has come up with a way to keep people behind the wheel safe way before it released its in-car system. This developer is Apple.

At present, Apple is already a key player in the automotive industry, thanks to the likes of CarPlay and Siri Eyes Free. The company was responsible for taking in-car connectivity to a whole new level by allowing users to incorporate iPhone apps with the digital systems of their cars. However, a recently discovered document revealed that even before the aforementioned in-car offerings were released, Apple developed something for the sake of drivers everywhere.

AppleInsider and PCMag reported about Apple’s ‘Driver handheld computing device lock-out,’ a system for which the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office issued the U.S. Patent No. 8,706,143 for the tech giant. This will help ensure the safety of drivers by allowing the device to determine whether the user is driving and in turn turning off distracting phone functions. The lock-out patent was filed for back in 2008 and names John Greer Elias as inventor.

Apple’s invention works due to two key elements: a lock-out mechanism and the car itself. The lock-out mechanism makes use of on-board sensors to figure out if and when the user is driving. As for the car, it will hinder the use of the iPhone for those behind the wheel by blocking signals.

The lock-out mechanism was designed not to require input from the car. What Apple did was enable the iPhone to gather data with the help of motion and scenery analyzers to trigger the said mechanism. In the document AppleInsider and PCMag found, a couple of other sensing devices were listed to get raw data. These include cameras, light sensors, GPS receivers and accelerometers.

The motion analyzer helps determine if the person is driving by monitoring device speed. If the speed goes beyond a certain limit, it suggests that the vehicle is moving. Other sensing devices help the device figure out the user’s activity. For instance, the iPhone’s GPS and accelerometer can be utilized to know if the user is moving by walking or running, or moving in a motor vehicle.

The process is more complex for the scenery analyzer, which needs to acquire and process images to know for sure if the iPhone user is in a ‘safe’ operating area or not. The analyzer algorithm needs to process an image or video to determine what area the device user is occupying. The unsafe operating area is the driver’s seat or the one behind the wheel, while the safe operating areas are the passenger seat and backseat.

The lock-out mechanism will be activated according to preset conditions. This means that texting may be blocked if the analyzers have determined that the user is driving.

As for the system’s car component, it communicates with the device through active radio signals or radio frequency identification (RFID). Sensing devices in the car can send a blocking signal to a nearby device, shutting down texting or other distracting functions.

Photo credit: pcmag.com

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