The Apple 'MappleGate' Tragedy Nobody Wants to Talk About

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Tuesday on CNBC, I described MappleGate as a symptom of bigger long-term problems at Apple ( AAPL).

Until something significant happens to warrant further discussion of the topic, I'll leave it there. However, there's something bigger than Apple that needs to come to the forefront of the hysteria.

I did some thinking on the 20-mile drive from CNBC's LA bureau to Santa Monica. A journey that took 90 minutes, thanks to perpetual construction.

First, I looked back on 13 years of being carless.

It's been a great run. But now, for several reasons, I need to join the not-so-silent majority. Chances are, before the year is out, I will buy a car.

For more than I decade, I have walked, cycled and taken transit instead of driving. While I have mellowed, I still lean toward an anti-car sentiment.

Cars kill people. Certainly drivers share the blame. But, ultimately, that thing we call "car culture" deserves a lion's share of responsibility.

We have an unrealistic expectation in society. This idea that we can put human beings into chaotic, unworkable and inherently dangerous situations and expect them to avoid death or serious injury to themselves and others.

It's like blaming victims in coal mine disasters for their fate. When you put people in dangerous situations, it's foolish to expect anything but disastrous results.

Human error doesn't "cause" car crashes, human nature does.

MappleGate put turn-by-turn directions on the front page. When he offered mapping alternatives in his apology letter, Tim Cook raised the profile.

Tongue in cheek here because we all know that correlation does not equal causation, but I wonder how many additional traffic accidents Tim Cook "caused" since he told customers to get their mapping services from another store.

He likely helped increase the number of idiots who figured they would give the startup map application Waze or something similar a whirl while traveling.

On Tuesday, I was one of those idiots.

As much as I despise distracted driving when I see it -- and as illegal as it is in California -- I am one of those people who cannot keep myself from taking part. I'm not too proud to admit it. I am human; therefore I am flawed. And I have damn good company.

You. You. You. OK, maybe not you. But definitely you. We "all" do it at one time or another. Some partake regularly.

As people continue to adopt smartphones or maximize the utility of the ones they already own, thousands join the ranks of those of who text, Tweet, Instagram and, to the current point, urban navigate while driving.

Not only are these activities illegal while driving in some places, they're dangerous everywhere. You might as well (and, of course, I am not advocating this) drink a six-pack before you leave for work in the morning if you're going to interact with a smartphone as you drive.

Much of technology's future relies on putting flawed humans into high-risk, life-threatening situations. And, while you have new laws hitting the books and PR campaigns hitting the streets, it really doesn't feel like anybody is doing anything meaningful about what really is an issue of epic proportion.

We're being given these devices that we absolutely have to touch and turn our attention to. Practically all corners of society encourage us to use smartphones to enhance the quality and efficiency of every aspect of our lives. Yet, at the same time, we're told -- and rightfully so -- that we should never use these things while driving.

The contradiction transcends the heights of absurdity.

Consider Waze. I used it on the way home Tuesday. Great app, however it almost got me into a minor accident or two. I was going slow, but, with some speed, minor could have morphed into potentially fatal.

You need to tap Waze up to launch. And, when you're driving, it offers you about 6 million different ways to interact. From altering your route to reporting traffic to seeing if other "Wazers" are nearby and more.

Waze actually encourages users to "Drive Social." How shockingly irresponsible is that?

There is no way to use Waze, just as an example, without being manually, visually and/or cognitively distracted. Absolutely no way.

Waze is not alone. Just about every app, every text, every call requires the user to distract him or herself in one or more of the three aforementioned ways.

Even if it's voice-activated, you're distracted, if for no reason other than the fact that you still need to do some combination of talk, touch, look and listen. The technology to make these things safe to use while driving is simply not there yet.

And until it is, assuming it can ever get "there," should we really be talking out of both sides of our mouth on the issue?

We refuse to take distracted driving seriously for the same reasons we have never addressed the larger issue of traffic-related deaths.

We chalk up the resultant danger and death as the costs of doing business. Collateral damage. We can't mess with the economy. We can't mess with technological "progress." We can't screw with the revenue streams of everybody from Apple to the automakers to their partners.

I'm not riding a high horse here. I break the law and endanger myself and others on every rare occasion that I drive a car. If I buy a car, I'll likely end up doing it more frequently. Color me hypocritical.

As people like to Tweet, I'm just sayin'.

We encourage and perpetuate distracted driving. Any company involved in the space has blood on its hands. So do government regulators. And there's certainly no corporate conscience or political will to change anything anytime soon.

At the time of publication, the author held no positions in any of the stocks mentioned in this article.

This article is commentary by an independent contributor, separate from TheStreet's regular news coverage.
Rocco Pendola is a private investor with nearly 20 years experience in various forms of media, ranging from radio to print. His work has appeared in academic journals as well as dozens of online and offline publications. He uses his broad experience to help inform his coverage of the stock market, primarily in the technology, Internet and new media spaces. He has taken a long-term approach to investing, focusing on dividend-paying stocks, since he opened his first account as a teenager. Pendola, 37, is based in Santa Monica, Calif., where he lives with his wife and child.

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