Fatal Car Crash Provokes iPhone FaceTime Lawsuit
Apple is being sued after a fatal crash in which a driver was using the FaceTime video chat tool. The parents of the child who died are putting forward an unusual legal argument.
Normally lawsuits relating to technology involve a product or service a company has made. In this case, Apple is under fire because of a feature it didn't develop.
5-year-old Moriah Modisette died when her parents car slowed and stopped as a result of a highway patrol stop 1,500 feet away. The driver of the car behind failed to stop and crashed into the rear of the Modisette car. The lawsuit says police discovered the driver had been using the FaceTime feature despite driving at 65 miles per hour at the time of the crash.
Apple Had Patented Safety Feature
According to the lawsuit, Apple bears some responsibility because it had the ability to stop FaceTime working in speeding cars but chose not to add this feature. The lawsuit notes that iPhones such as the one the driver used have built-in hardware such as GPS and accelerometers that can show when a phone is moving and at what speed.
What makes the case particularly interesting is that it cites a patent that Apple received in 2008 which detailed "a lock-out mechanism to prevent operation of one or more functions of handheld computing devices by drivers when operating vehicles."
The lawsuit argues that this is direct evidence that Apple had considered the need to add such a feature and had the ability to do so, but actively chose not to do it. If the case goes to court, it could create an intriguing legal debate about whether a company that patents a safety technology has a responsibility to go on to use it. (Source: techeye.net)
Feature May Not Have Worked
While it hasn't commented on this specific case, Apple has previously suggested it's up to drivers to take responsibility for safe phone use and that they could switch a phone off or enable the Airplane or Do Not Disturb modes.
There's some question over whether the technology Apple patented would work effectively in the real world, with one big problem being how to stop phones from blocking features for passengers or people on public transportation. (Source: washingtonpost.com)
What's Your Opinion?
Does Apple bear any legal or moral responsibility for the crash? Does the fact that it patented a safety feature mean it should have to use it? Can companies do more to prevent distracted driving or will it always ultimately be down to the driver's decisions?
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