Could or should Apple use the iPhone 5s M7 motion coprocessor to lock out texting while driving?

Could or should Apple use the iPhone 5s M7 motion coprocessor to lock out texting while driving?

I've been asked several times this week whether Apple could or should use the new M7 motion coprocessor chip in the iPhone 5s to lockout features like texting if it detects you're driving. It's an interesting idea but not a particularly workable one, at least not yet.

First, texting is only one kind of distraction. You can be distracted by tweeting, searching for music, using turn-by-turn navigation, or any number of things. You can also be distracted by the newspaper or map you've laid out across the steering wheel, the sandwich you're eating, or the makeup you're putting on.

Second, even if we take the view that M7 could mitigate the problem by locking out purely digital distractions, how would it know you're actually driving the car rather than sitting in the passenger or back seat, or sitting on a train or a bus? And if it can be disabled under those circumstances, the same type of people foolish enough to drive while distracted would likely be foolish enough to disable it under the worst of circumstances too.

Distracted driving of all kinds is a lethal problem. M7-based lockout, by itself and as presently implemented, however, doesn't seem like a realistic solution. We'll have to see if things like iOS in the Car offer any better alternatives.

Rene Ritchie

Editor-in-Chief of iMore, co-host of Iterate, Debug, ZEN and TECH, MacBreak Weekly. Cook, grappler, photon wrangler. Follow him on Twitter,, Google+.

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There are 48 comments. Add yours.

richard451 says:

Android devices have had this for a couple of years now and it never went anywhere.

SockRolid says:

A lot of things that Google dumped out never went anywhere.
Google TV anyone?

ame says:

I am super-mixed on this. It would have to be able to detect if you are in fact the driver or if you are simply a passenger. I would not want my passengers unable to text while riding, and I wouldn't want to be unable to if I was, say, on a bus or in a subway train because it's detected that I am moving.

Ideally, and this is me in a la la land, people would grow a little self control and focus on the road a little and wait til they get to a stoplight or pull over. It really can wait.

scottnch1 says:

No. I'll tell you exactly what Apple should do: Nothing.

It already feels too much like being in a Nanny State using Apple stuff. They should butt out (not that they ever butted in on this one, since it's your suggestion) and let people do what they want.

I'm tiring of their control-freakery, as it is. Apple: butt out.

Michael Ellis Day says:

Those heartless bastards at Apple, forcing you to use their products. It must be awful. If only there were other companies making competing products you could use instead and not have Apple telling you what to do all the time.

scottnch1 says:

Oh, ignore me. I was on a bit of a rant after all the "5c is brilliant and here's why it's not a complete rip off" nonsense. I'm over it now :)

I might give the HTC One a go as my contract's up soon.


Jay Imerman says:

Oh God no! There is no way the device can tell whether it is operated by the driver or a passenger. It will be annoying and get in the way.

Rowanova says:

Thank you for making the same point I was going to make.

And also, isn't this part of the job of Siri? Speak and it types and sends the messages for us. Keep the gestopo of my devices.

Derrick4Real says:

I love how this post poses a question simply to answer it. Obviously you can't. it can't tell driving just motion. So nobody on a New York Subway train, bus, cab riding can use their phone. Nobody as a passenger in any city. lol .That makes no sense. I've heard of studies saying the problem is "distraction" in general not simply texting or phones. They say the get the same problem from people playing with the radio or distracted by food or backseat passengers. All of the following are distractions that cause accidents but i don't see stopping people from changing the radio or talkig to passengers or using their navigation.

Using a cell phone or smartphone
Eating and drinking
Talking to passengers
Reading, including maps
Using a navigation system
Watching a video
Adjusting a radio, CD player, or MP3 player

admirer_of_you says:

This has become Rene's stock and trade lately. Just like the "what will apple name the next iPhone"post last week. This crap is just click bait. I've already been frequenting sites like mac rumors more and more. Tipb is getting real weak. The absurdity of this ever happening is laughable for exactly the reasons you listed.

Gunni says:

I agree with you 100%. I also grow tired of the overuse of Rene's photo. Give it a rest and give us some substance instead of the click-bait fluff, please, or you risk losing your readers.

lungho says:

I also agree with you 100%. I think Rene is more interested in adding to his total post count rather than making quality posts.

If bloggers were actually considered journalist, this post of Rene's, as well as many of his others, would be considered journalistic malpractice.

phreddyl says:

Sorry I disagree- its called food for thought not click bait. if you are not interested in the topic then don't click to read the article.

Jim Brunzelle says:

Totally agree of the last 15 articles I've clicked on in the last week I think I walked away non annoyed by reading one. Rene needs to give it a break. Substance over quantity... Seriously debating removing Imore from my RSS feed.

Waste of space..

Mac rumors you say?

admirer_of_you says:

Food for thought?? In order for something to be food for thought there has to be something to think about. There's nothing interesting, thoughtful, or worthy of discussion in these types of posts. I challenge you to show me where I'm wrong.

karmski says:

My car won't let the navigation etc be entered while the car is in motion. It's for driver safety, but what if you have a passenger that can safely use the navigation. There are too many scenarios to consider and I can't see Apple making those arbitrary decisions.

Sent from the iMore App

sanibel says:

41 states, the District of Columbia, and Guam ban text messaging for all drivers. Twelve of these laws were enacted in 2010 alone.

11 states, the District of Columbia, and the Virgin Islands prohibit all drivers from using handheld cell phones while driving.

It is the states' job (in the US), not the device maker (i.e. Apple) to enforce the law.

Nathan Bael says:

Nothing should be forced. However, I would like to be able to set siri to speak my texts based on sensing motion.

Kaiju says:

NO! Christ... People need to stop being so willing to give away their freedoms. Right or wrong, it is the choice of the individual to decide their own actions. Stop asking the government/tech companies to do everything for you and learn some f4king responsibility.

Gunni says:

When did texting while driving become one of the "freedoms" we are giving away? Pappy53 is right: take their license away for 30 days for the first offense and for a year on the second. Friend of mine reports the young daughter of an acquaintance has had TWO accidents while texting behind the wheel. Lost the sight of one eye as the result of the second accident. Brilliant!! Do some people simply _never_ learn?

revtech says:

And what about the freedom to grow up and enjoy life that is taken away from someone when some idiot texting driver kills them . . . ?

pappy53 says:

Only a stone cold 100% idiot would text while driving. 1st offense should be license suspension for at least 30 days. NO ONE has control of a vehicle while texting.

Honestabebread says:

Motorola Assist. I use it everyday. If I'm in the passanger seat I just dismiss the notification

GlennRuss says:

There have been studies, and some results about all this new technology in vehicles. If you listen to the radio, or an audio book, there is no real increase of having an accident. Even hands free talking on a phone has been debated, but not a big increase if any on having an accident. If you use the system in you vehicle to listen, and reply to emails, and text, even tho hands free, there is an increase of having an accident. You would think it would be the same as talking, but it seems we are more distracted replying to emails, and texting than just general talking all hands free.

Sent from the iMore App

Chugajr says:

They Could add it on as a feature but with the option if you want it because people would not want to buy something that has it locked down, but then again it could also teach people to be safe!!

Negaduck says:

Is m7 going to know if it is me or someone else driving? I think it's not a good idea.

vinny jr says:

Not a good idea. What if you are a passenger in a car and you want to make and receive text messages. That same limitation would keep you from using the phone. It needs to be left to the owner of the phone to make the right decision. Just My Opinion.

jayblazer says:

As a passenger in a car are you allowed to drink beer? Nope, why? Your not driving. The answer is because alcohol should not be drank in cars. Believe it or not people use to be able to operate in there daily lives without texting. This could save many lives. I wish they would enable this at least as something I as a parent could do to my kids phone so that when he reaches driving age he is unable to use his cell phone while driving. If that makes it inconvenient as a passenger tough.

beenz says:

I think the only way to successfully prevent drivers from texting would be to add NFC (or similar technology). You could have a little device on the driver's side, and if your phone is within a certain distance of this device, you would not be able to text, etc. Albeit this could be bypassed simply by leaning over to the passenger side to text, which is even more dangerous.

philips9179 says:

yes, absolutely. anything that technology can do to remove any risks to having an accident and god forbid..., it should... for everyone concerned. i think that technology companies such as apple have a moral imperative to do it.

its exactly the same as people holding their mobile phones whilst driving, everybody knows they shouldnt do it, and in the uk its illegal, but you still see people doing it, i then they have an accident, and if they are lucky they will walk away uninjured, but if they not so lucky... then what, they have to live with the consequences of those actions, and may have an impact on family life, work etc

steviet02 says:

Haha, so a company has to have the morals but the person driving the vehicle doesn't? What a laughable statement. I'm not shocked though, seems like more an more of society want to put the blame on companies or other people instead of taking the responsible approach themselves.

philips9179 says:

ha ha i didnt say the person shouldnt have the moral repercussions, you made a tragic assumption there, thats why we have a thing called the law, to act as a deterrent from people doing such things, but does it work?

what i am saying is if the facility is there people, because of the pressures of life, will use it. but if the technology is there to stop it, why not use it, and apple have a corporate moral, ethical and social responsibility to do it... if it saves life, and wouldnt it help with the branding as apple as a company.

why do you think apple or any other phone company dont want to display your mobile home screen on the display of headsets of cars???

Matthew Hedstrom says:

With a little cooperation with car manufacturers it might be rather easy to detect if the phone is used by the driver of a car or someone else. NFC might do this, sensors in the seat -- something. And since Apple is already working closely with auto folks on iOS in the Car, I see no reason they couldn't add this feature. If they got it working right, I'd be all for it.

Jaguarr40 says:

Without a doubt since more and more states including my own Florida now has just passed a no texting while driving law, While It will meet with much resistance among many people that think they can still handle texting and driving, i think this would be a huge step if Apple did this because it would be the right thing to do. First people will hate if it were done but after getting use to it, It would be old hat and nothing to it. Apple do the right thing and show how much you care about driver and other people on the road and their safety where your phone stands for 'Lives" and 'Safety of others'.

Ipheuria says:

I think we have all become so entitled that we think we should not be blocked from texting unless for a particular situation(being the driver). Distracted driving is lethal but it is now increased by the introduction of cell phones now smartphones. Yes if Apple did do this only the iPhone owners would be locked out. However when was it a fix the entire issue or don't bother? There is no text, tweet, email so important that it's worth the possibility of hurting oneself or even worst someone else. People will say things like a wife going into labor but cell phones haven't existed since the dawn of time so how did people deal without being connected then? I'm all for it although because of the outcry and media coverage I don't think Apple would do it just yet.

Sent from the iMore App

Rkolodz1 says:

They should never take the responsibili of adding this feature. Apple would then en themselves up to liability lawsuits. "Yes your honor I was texting, but my iPhone is supposed to block me from texting. My iPhone malfunctioned. It's there fault." Pretty sure Apple doesn't want to get pulled into court every day.

CORYK333 says:

Nope, not their place & I have the common sense to do it when appropriate.......obviously many other people don't have the common sense or self control to not text & drive, but they are (sort of) big boys/girls now & should be responsible for their own actions if they can't follow the law.

mattmatt299 says:

How would the phone know you are driving and not a passenger, or on a bus or commuter train?

Its getting ridiculous how people have blinders on and talk only about texting while driving. The issue is being distracted while driving. Whether its feeding kids in the back seat, putting on make-up, tuning the radio, fiddling with the heat or AC, or any number of things.

Where do you draw the line? should Apple have an app that watches your eyeballs and applies the brakes in your car if you take your eyes off the road?

Jay Imerman says:

Thankyou mattmatt for a voice of reason. Probably just the reason no laws will take this into account!

Glenn Billings says:

Hi. The question is should Apple lockout texting while driving? Answer. No. Technically they could lockout texting while MOVING, but how would device know you were driving or just a passenger in a car, bus or train? It wouldn't.

cosmonaut5 says:

The should not use it to block people from using their phones. What if you are a passenger in a train? I think that all liberties give responsibilities.

teepeeayy says:

Its called personal responsibility. To paraphrase a Yogi Berra quote, If people don't want to stop texting while driving, you can't make them.

I would like to force it off on my kid's phone though. If they're driving, I want the option to turn it off. If they're commuting/on a bus, I want the option to leave texting on.

ProWingz89 says:

It should be an available option. What if u didnt want your teen driver texting while driving.

T-Will says:

Nanny State, please leave us alone.