Tim Cook and Apple Watch
Apple's Tim Cook could be showing off a more advanced Apple Watch next year. Getty Images/Stephen Lam

Apple has been criticized and hit with lawsuits over doing little to curb distracted drivers, but the company might soon change that with the Apple Watch, a patent discovered by 9to5Mac shows.

The patent, filed last September, shows Apple wants the Apple Watch to determine whether the user is driving by using motion detection. If the device knows you’re driving, the Watch will determine what alerts are sent, the number of alerts you can receive and where you receive them. Apple will even consider which alerts are too important to hide when you’re traveling.

“Embodiments of the present disclosure may adapt the behavior of the wearable device according to whether the user is controlling a vehicle (e.g., driving a motor vehicle, steering a bicycle, flying an airplane, navigating a boat or ship, etc.),” the patent explained. “For example, the wearable device may reduce the type or quantity of notifications that the user receives while the user is controlling a vehicle.”

The patent adds:

“In some embodiments, notifications are completely prevented while the user is controlling the vehicle. In other embodiments, high priority notifications such as emergency calls are permitted while low priority notifications such as incoming e-mails are suppressed.”

The patent shows the feature could be customized by the user or car manufacturer. It also points to a link with iOS’ CarPlay, which is currently available to select cars. Alerts may go to CarPlay displays rather than having users looking at their Apple Watch, if the company follows through with its ideas.

The patent said:

“In some embodiments, the wearable device may instead re-route notifications from the device display or speakers to interface elements within the vehicle, such as an in-dash or heads up display or vehicle speakers, rather than preventing notifications from reaching the user.”

Lawsuits Against Apple

The features included in the patent are a good step for Apple to curb distracted drivers and potential accidents. In January, MLG Automotive Law filed a class action lawsuit in California arguing that since 2008 Apple has had possession of technology that would lock its products when the user is driving but has chosen not to implement it on its devices.

In a separate lawsuit, filed in December 2016, a Texas couple sued Apple after they suffered a crash caused by a distracted driver on FaceTime. The accident led to the death of their five-year-old daughter. In the lawsuit, the parents claimed Apple failed to manufacture its iPhone 6 Plus with “safer, alternative ‘lock-out’ technology,” pointing to the 2008 patent.