Invention uses wireless to jam teen drivers' cell phones

cell phones

University of Utah researchers  have invented technology that could come to be embraced by teenagers with the same enthusiasm they have for curfews and ID checks. And like those things, it could save their lives.

Key2SafeDriving technology uses RFID or Bluetooth wireless capabilities to issue signals from car keys to cell phones to prevent drivers from talking on their phones or texting while driving. Some research shows that as many as 1 in 10 teen drivers are talking on cell phones or texting while driving at any time, and the possible consequences of such ill-advised multitasking have grabbed many a headline in recent years.

A company called Accendo LC of Kaysville, Utah has licensed the technology and is working to build it into commercial devices that could be on the market next year. The company is sorting out how to bring the technology to market, but one possibility is that it would be made available through cell phone service companies and could also be tied in with insurance companies, which might offer discounts for users.

Xuesong Zhou, assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering, sums up the purpose of the technology like this: “The key to safe driving is to avoid distraction.” He invented Key2SafeDriving with Wally Curry, a University of Utah graduate now practicing medicine in Kansas.

The system involves a device that envelops a car key and that signals the cell phone to prevent calls and texting when the key is removed from it. The cell phone would automatically steer callers into a voice mail system alerting them that the intended call recipient is driving and will return the call later (the system does enable 911 calling).

In theory, the technology could be used by adults, but the reality is they are more likely to have their kids use it. Though if insurance discounts are part of the mix, adults could be swayed to use it too.

Here’s a link to a video of how the technology works:

The issues of using cell phones while driving has become something of a focus at the University of Utah. Earlier this year it released findings that showed cell phone wielding drivers actually tend to drive more slowly and can create traffic jams. 

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