By Daniel Machin
Apple is currently working on a system to prevent people from using their mobile phones behind the wheel.
The technology giant has patented an idea that would lock-out texting and other potentially distracting features while a driver is on the move, helping them focus all their attention on the road ahead.
Data from GPS, phone towers or even images from the camera could be used by a device to determine whether it is moving, while visual clues, such as a steering wheel or the number of faces in the car, could be used to figure out if its owner is driving or merely travelling as a passenger.
A 2006 study found that 80% of crashes were caused by distractions such as applying makeup, eating and text messaging.
Other research has shown that sending text messages while driving is just as dangerous as being a quarter over the legal drink-drive limit.
Relief for concerned parents
Apple claims a system that disables mobile phones could therefore be a significant selling point in the eyes of concerned parents, while it could even lead to legislation that would require all handheld computing devices to disable texting when a person is driving.
Algorithms could differentiate between the interior of a car and a train carriage or seat on a bus, where safety features would not be necessary, as well as detect when an unscrupulous driver is tilting the phone so as to not reveal the steering wheel and evade the safety feature.
Police have a hard job spotting drivers who are texting, especially as it can be done on the lap below the line of sight. A new system to prevent people using their mobile phones behind the wheel is therefore likely to be welcomed by authorities.
Road safety charity Brake says that texting increases the chance of a commercial driver crashing by 23 times, and slows reaction times by as much as 35%.