Tech to Prevent Driver Distraction

4/12/2012

By now, you’re aware that it’s National Distracted Driving Awareness Month, and that distracted driving is indeed a problem. But in addition to spreading the word about the dangers of irresponsibly using devices while behind the wheel, what can really be done to make a difference? Bans? Not likely. Higher fines and steeper penalties? Maybe. How about using technology?

It may seem contradictory to develop technologies that help keep us safe behind the wheel, when many believe technology being used in vehicles is to blame for the increase in distracted-driving-related incidents during the past few years. However, a number of technology-solution providers aim to offer the tools the public needs to act responsibly, while also acknowledging the permanence of devices and technology in today’s society.

In some cases, smartphone applications use a phone’s accelerometer to determine when a vehicle is in motion, then disable several functions of the driver’s device that can create distraction—such as text messaging. Other solutions, such as the technology by Cellcontrol, www.cellcontrol.com, actually rely on a hardware device plugged into a vehicle’s OBD port.


Cellcontrol recently released a solution that prevents texting, emailing, Web browsing, and phone usage in Class A vehicles such as heavy trucks, buses, and other large vehicles. The technology communicates with a vehicle’s onboard computer to determine when a vehicle is moving, then blocks the use of a mobile device based on a company’s distracted-driving policy. Emergency 911 calls are the exception. 

Interestingly, the company says its solution uses a patent-pending non-pairing Bluetooth signal to transmit vehicle operating data to the phone and immediately initiate blocking when driving. Cellcontrol’s technology can report on other safety metrics such as driver speed and hard-braking events, as well as efficiency metrics such as mileage and idle times for companies looking for a well-rounded approach to preventing distracted driving.

Other solutions with specific target markets in mind include a number of smartphone apps geared toward parents. iGuardianTeen, www.iguardianteen.com, is one such solution for teen drivers.

iGuardianTeen provides parents with realtime driving feedback as their teens are out on the road. The company’s ultimate goal is to help parents keep a closer eye on their teen’s driving behavior while reducing the risk of an accident due to distraction or insufficient driving experience.

The app automatically diverts incoming calls directly to voicemail while a vehicle is in motion. It mutes notifications such as rings, dings, and vibrations, so your teen is not even tempted to pick up the phone. (A Parental Emergency Contact feature is an exception.)

Parents receive reports on any calls or texts sent from behind the wheel, in addition to realtime alerts when a teen has gone above a set speed limit or is braking harshly, which can indicate the driver is distracted. The technology can help keep teens accountable, teaching them life-long habits for responsible driving.

During the month of April, The Peggy Smedley Show, www.peggysmedleyshow.com, an Internet talk radio show covering M2M technology and connected devices, will be covering distracted driving, not as an unsolvable problem, but as an issue that needs to be addressed through education and prevention.

On April 17, U.S. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood will join the show to discuss the ways companies and individuals can work together to stand against distracted driving in all its forms.

Tune in each Tuesday 12 p.m. CT during National Distracted Driving Awareness Month to learn more.




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