American tech giant Apple has filed a patent for technology which could stop drivers using their smartphones behind the wheel.
The so-called "lock-out mechanism" would use pre-existing pieces of hardware on an iPhone to determine if the user is driving a car. If he or she is, the phone would lock, stopping drivers from calling, texting or using apps.
Using a phone without a hands-free kit is illegal in the UK, but the ever-increasing popularity of smartphones and apps means people are still breaking the rules.
The new technology would analyse the phone's GPS signal to see if the car is moving and if so, how fast, to distinguish car movement from walking.
It could also use the camera to identify images, such as the presence of a steering wheel and how close the user is to it. It could also count the number of faces in the car to see if the user is the only person in the vehicle, while recognising the interior of a car as opposed to a train or bus, which behaves in the same way.
According to Apple, the patent was filed in 2008 but has only been granted this week. The patent application says the technology could be a major selling point and one day lead to all mobiles and tablets using the system.
The idea will be welcomed by police, parents and lawmakers alike, with a 2006 study showing that 80% of crashes are caused by the driver being distracted by something.
Copyright Press Association 2014