Published: Thu, May 04, 2017
Medicine | By Daryl Nelson

Can 1830s technology curb distracted driving?

Can 1830s technology curb distracted driving?

The carmaker Nissan has developed the so-called "signal shield" to eliminate distractions caused by incoming calls, messages and social media notifications.

So far, it is an entirely conceptual product that Nissan demonstrates with its Juke cars, but we don't know yet if the company will offer it in its vehicles soon ... or at all.

Using technology invented by English scientist Michael Faraday in the early 19th century, the compartment blocks all cellular, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth signals from reaching the phone.

Penalties and fines for illegal phone use by drivers doubled to six points and £200 on March 1 following a series of high-profile cases and research suggesting the practice is widespread.

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We've said it before, we'll undoubtedly say it again, but distracted driving is bad. The central armrest is lined with a Faraday cage, which collects electromagnetic signals including ones coming from phone calls or mobile internet activity and stops them reaching the phone housed inside. The British automotive services company RAC says that the number of drivers admitting to using their phones in the auto has jumped from just 8% in 2014 to a staggering 31% previous year.

To achieve the same effect you could, of course, simply turn your phone off and hide it, but Nissan says the Signal Shield is created to present drivers with a choice when they climb behind the wheel, while not having to power down devices. Connections are restored by opening the armrest.

It was created as a result of a growing problem with people texting, calling, Snapping and sharing dog memes while they're supposed to be concentrating - almost one in five admit to having texted while driving, and that's only the ones who own up. Drivers are able to hook it up to the audio system using AUX or USB connections, although playing music through AUX does involve using the phone to change song, playlist or podcast. This is about delivering more control at the wheel, not less. And it succeeds to that end, because a phone that can't do anything isn't going to distract a driver. The tech concept has been demonstrated using a Nissan Juke.

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