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Apple to halt texting at the wheel with Carplay 'lock-out' feature

Apple's CarPlay technology might help curb texting while driving, but Cupertino wants to take the process a step further.

According to a patent application published today, Apple wants to build a lock-out mechanism that would disable certain smartphone functions while the vehicle is in motion.

The system would presumably be integrated into CarPlay—a safer alternative for using an iPhone while driving. Compatible with participating vehicles' native interfaces, the technology makes it easy to access Siri without interruption, and allows for phone calls, GPS navigation, music, and messaging via a voice command or quick tap.

But while advanced technology may be fun, it doesn't provide insurance that motorists will follow the rules. So, Apple is eyeing a system to immobilise handheld computing devices while you drive.

"Texting while driving has become a major concern of parents, law enforcement, and the general public," the patent said, citing a 2006 study that found 80 percent of auto accidents are caused by distracted driving.

"New laws are being written to make texting illegal while driving," Apple said in the document. "However, law enforcement officials report that their daily ability to catch offenders is limited because the texting device can be used out of sight, thus making texting while driving even more dangerous."

The patent lists multiple iterations, including a mechanism to disable one or more functions for a predetermined period of time, or once the phone is placed within a safe space in the vehicle — i.e. not in hands that should be holding the wheel.

It could also be set for a predetermined number of operations; perhaps parents want to ensure their kids can't use the SMS or voice call functions, but are still able to access GPS services.

To actually determine whether the handheld gadget is in motion, Cupertino is looking to use GPS data, cellular data, a built-in accelerometer, or a light sensor.

The US Patent & Trademark Office last month published an Apple patent aimed at curtailing the similar issue of texting while walking. Its "transparent texting" system turns your smartphone camera into a third eye, displaying everything that's in the pedestrian's path as the background of a messaging app.

Texting while driving, however, is typically regarded as a much more dangerous practice.

One San Francisco graphic artist got so fed up with people texting behind the wheel that he launched a shaming campaign: vigilante Brian Singer rented 11 billboards around the California city to display photos of people engaging in the risky act.