Apple is facing a legal battle in California for neglecting to implement technology that would prevent iPhone owners from texting behind the wheel.
Filed on Tuesday in Los Angeles County Superior Court, the class-action suit alleges that Apple has possessed the ability to disable texting since 2008, and was granted a patent on it by U.S. Patent and Trademark Office in 2014. The lawsuit wants the company to stop all iPhone sales until it installs safety-oriented software on all devices “new and old” via an update. Representatives for plaintiff Julio Ceja highlight the persistent risks involved with texting and driving, citing research that attributes cell phone usage to 26 percent of all car accidents in United States. Ceja was stopped at a red light when his vehicle struck from behind by a driver who was using her iPhone. Despite the singular plaintiff, the trial is set up to represent all California residents deemed at risk as a result of Apple neglecting to install a lock-out feature on its mobile devices.
In November, the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration issued “voluntary guidelines” for smartphone makers, urging companies to develop a way to prevent access to non-driving tasks such as web browsing, video playback, camera functions, and text messaging whenever a vehicle is in motion. The move met with immediate criticism.
Apple has faced similar lawsuits in the past. The company saw legal action from a family struck by a driver using FaceTime on Christmas Eve, 2014, and another family hit by a woman who was checking her iPhone messages from behind the wheel of a Ram pickup in 2013.
In response to the 2013 incident, Apple said its official position was that responsibility falls on the operator of a vehicle to avoid distraction. “We discourage anyone from allowing their iPhone to distract them by typing, reading or interacting with the display while driving,” Apple said in a statement provided to The New York Times “For those customers who do not wish to turn off their iPhones or switch into Airplane Mode while driving to avoid distractions, we recommend the easy-to-use Do Not Disturb and Silent Mode features.”
Apple has yet to publicly comment on the current case.