The NY Times reported that a young woman died in a car crash after the driver got distracted while using an Apple’s Facetime App. The family apparently decided to sue, not only the driver but also Apple Company. Her accusation, as reported in the NY Times, was the apparent need by Apple to disable video as well as other Apps that may distract drivers when they are being used by a driver. In an age of heightened technological advancement, humanity relies on technology for several moral and responsibility inclined decisions that they have become humanity’s second nature. With this new found friend, come challenges as the case of the girl’s family above (Mars, Jason & Katherine, online). The question for everyone is whether it should be the responsibility of the firm that creates the technology to make distracting apps such as social media unworkable whenever it’s used in a moving car. This essay rejects this proposition.
Despite our devices having the key roles of making us show up on time, or doing the right thing, technology cannot make real-time decisions for us. The decisions that we make may be influenced by technology, yet, solely lies with the decision maker. For example, an alarm clock serves the purpose of reminding us to do something at a specific time. However, when the clock rings, whether we choose to do what we indicated to do earlier or not, rests solely on our moral responsibility with our word. In the case of the driver accessing the Face App, as projected by Assing, limiting certain features of the apps and phone may serve to deter the driver from any distractions, yet, the choice as to whether they shall follow the regulations or not may not be tenable (21). This assumption is particularly based on the fact that choice and free will exists and people have the chance of using other means of getting distracted through other devises. That said, despite technology helping us make good decisions, the decisions do not necessarily come from the tech, rather from the human.
Secondly, according to Gazalay & Rosen, people have knowledge that distracted driving has dangerous results (12). According to Polls from (Mars, Jason & Katherin, online), 55% respond to message from their phone within five minutes or less.. In fact, over 83% of Americans feel the urge to respond to text messages within an hour or less. Here is a summary of the survey:
How quick do you get the need to respond to your texts?
Here is the age breakdown:
(Mars, Jason & Katherin, online)
Due to this kind of feedback, most companies who make smartphones have always offered alternatives for safety conscious drivers to use minimizing distractions. For example, several phones have a hands-free alterative; others have headsets as well as voice commands which can lead to muting buttons or even airplane modes. However, for all of these alternatives, an opt-out mechanism often exist which makes unmindful drivers to take the unwanted actions of thwarting the original intention to offer safety measures (Jāhāna, 32). Therefore, creating an automatic shutdown from certain apps during driving may not work unless with opt out mechanism which often counters the safety measure at the end.
Additionally, technological fixes that have legal mandates often have less impact that fixes and measures that are market driven. Often times, when regulations appear as the rule of the thumb, people tend to ignore them more than when they have a market driven influence. A common example is the alcohol and 18 sign. When adverts and promotions ask if you are 18 in an explicit promotion, chances are that people tend to click yes, even when they are not. When this happens, the decision to click yes overrides the intent for safety in the first place (Jāhāna 23). As such, judges as well as regulators often place more value on the preventive ability in the face of a catastrophe and in return less value on the users. In practical sense, having a regulation that allows every smartphone users to constantly and routinely press “a not driving” sign on their phones for eternity would prove ridiculous as some people may easily, simply ignore the message because of the poor decisions they make to use smartphone apps and get distracted anyway. Besides, notice how many prohibitory messages would pop up of the smartphone screen to prevent people from dangerous activities, self-induced or not. One can imagine pop ups indicating deactivation because of driving, cooking, working or even playing with some equipment. The cost and effect would be less valuable than intended.
Recently, Feldman, in response to a car crash of a teen advised through an article that manufactures should be blamed for the wrong usage of such social media apps. In the exact case, of 2015, a Georgia teen crashed while driving via a speed filter on snapchat (Assing, 46). The company issued claims that the app does not encourage driving and usage. In fact, Habib indicates that the app has a sign that says one should resist from using the app while driving. However, the lawsuit filed against the company was dismissed on the basis of communication decency act of 1996 (47). The act calls upon users such as drivers to take responsibility for their usage of the app and not let this rest on the manufacturer of the app themselves. Therefore, the regulations support responsible usage which relieves the companies from having to take complete responsibility for the wrong usage by drivers and other app users. For example, the law of California prohibits the usage of phones while driving meaning that anyone found using them breaks the law (51).
Similarly, while this accident was caused by a distracted driver, any other distractions can cause the same accident. The reasoning of Jāhāna (12) to this accusation is that the driver can choose to be doing anything else which may eventually cause the accident. Nonetheless, companies have a responsibility to stay mindful of danger zones that may arise from the wrong usage of their products. From this awareness, companies begin to create sensible measures to avoid such dangers. While Apple may have mechanisms to detect potential distractions and avert them, the accuracy of each step may not be guaranteed in the long run. Researches from reputable sources such as Harvard offer comprehensive suggestions on the latest developments in smartphone technology. These developments aim to provide more safety usage of products such as smartphones in order to prevent certain accidents. Some of the researches are actually readily available for use and needs the pubic and companies to use. How this kind of information is adopted by users provide a framework upon which to drive this conversation towards sustainability both for the companies and the users involved. Ultimately, technologies for deep learning are beginning to provide samples of exploration into their usage to enhance safety. Some of these measures include Waze message pop up which automatically disables certain features such as typing while driving and thereby reduces chances of having suh distractions leading to road accidents (Gazalay & Rosen 2017).
On the other hand, smartphone companies, similar to other stakeholders have a responsibility to encourage safety consciousness beyond putting limiting measures on the phone. In several instances, firms shy away from responsibility and hold it that it is illegal to drive and use the phone which exonerates them from blame. However, looking at the requirement of safety and trust, firms that make smartphones have a shared responsibility to ensure that public awareness programs are available for drivers to get conscious of their safety. Such of these campaigns could include partnerships with the government and other transport regulatory bodies to offer real time information of whoever ignores the safety driving measures on the road. These kind of partnership, for example, would ensure that anyone who ignores the drive safety signs on the phone have their details automatically get to the transport authority who can then take affirmative action against them. Other ways of taking responsibility would be to sponsor mindfulness campaigns that increase the overall mindfulness of the public to safety and technology usage. This kind of campaign overally ensures that the public responsivity to the safety measures is urgent and efficient.
In conclusion, while each stakeholder, the companies, the users and even safety providers including the government have roles to play in ensuring that distractions don’t lead to accidents on the road, the sole responsivity of the user to be more conscious still ranks high. This assertion should never be a reason for companies to perform the bare minimum on this issue. Rather, act as an opportunity to educate the public and create sensitization forums and campaigns that ensure that the public uses these safety policies from a place of understanding. It is unfortunate that sometimes, innocent third parties may suffer at the recklessness of such drivers as this one in the Apple case. A suggestion to curb that is to ensure collective responsibility in driving and being driven in a safety responsive environment. Technology firms can take this up and ensure that taxis and transport authorities ensure that the car actually provide signals of certain distractions when it detects it.
Assing, Dominique. Mobile Access Safety: Beyond Byod. London: ISTE, 2013. Internet resource 11 Jan. 2017. https://readofcopy.com/lib/mobile-access-safety-beyond-byod.pdf?web=www.e-solarpower.ru
Gazzaley, Adam, and Larry Rosen. The Distracted Mind (summary): Ancient Brains in a High-Tech World. , 2017. Internet resource 11 Jan. 2017. https://www.teachers.ab.ca/SiteCollectionDocuments/ATA/About-the-ATA/Education%20Research/Promise%20and%20Peril/Alberta%20Presentation%205-27-16.pdf
Mars, Jason, and Katherine Mangu-Ward. “Corporate Responsibility for Distracted Driving.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 11 Jan. 2017, www.nytimes.com/roomfordebate/2017/01/11/apples-corporate-responsibility-for-distracted-driving.
Jāhāna, Selima. Human Development Report 2016: Human Development for Everyone. , 2016. Internet resource. 11 Jan. 2017. https://books.google.co.ke/books?id=RY_YAQAACAAJ&dq=Human+development+Report+2016+pdf&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwigvYeVzcLeAhXOKiwKHalBBAEQ6AEIKDAA