Is the new cell phone blocking technology a lifesaver or a gross invasion of privacy.
Automobile accidents are one of the leading causes of injury and death in America. Last year 41,059 people died in traffic accidents. This has led to extreme measures, such as keys that limit the capabilities of vehicles for teenage drivers, as recently debuted by Ford.
Meanwhile, cell phones are essential functions in our lives, yet they have been under heavy criticism of late. From being banned on planes for interfering with transmissions to being blamed for cancer, they've gotten their fair share of bad publicity.
Perhaps the most salient of the criticism of cell phones is that they are distracting to drivers and have led to an increase in the number of car accidents. Studies have shown that drivers texting on cell phones are more impaired than those drinking or abusing other drugs. Also, a recent National Highway Traffic Safety Administration in 2006 found that merely dialing or talking on the phone caused 7 percent of accidents and near-crashes were directly caused by cell phones. While it is clear that this is a problem, many have wondered about a solution to the problem.
One company, Aegis Mobility, a Canadian software company, thinks it has the solution. The company has invented a new technology called DriveAssistT. The new system operates in-car and detects when the car is in motion. It then sends a signal to the wireless carrier telling them to hold incoming calls and text messages.
Callers who call the phone will be presented with a message that the person appears to be driving. They can press a key to go into an "emergency" mode to directly connect, if necessary. Otherwise they can just leave a message.
The new tech may see a strong push from many states' lawmakers. Lawmakers in New York and California have already passed through tough penalties on talking without a hands-free headset -- though as the NHTSA study showed, the physical act of talking causes crashes as well. Lawmakers in California have also terminated drivers' text-and-drive privileges.
One obstacle to adoption is compatibility. Aegis Mobility software is currently supported by the industry leading OS, Symbian OS, available on Nokia and Sony Ericsson phones. It is also supported by Windows Mobile, typically found on smart-phones. However, there's no current support for OS X (found on the iPhone) or Google's new Android OS.
For phones that support it, the devices operation is deceptively simple, says Dave Hattey, Aegis' CEO. The device uses the onboard GPS chip found in a large number of modern phones to track the user??™s movements. Past a certain speed the signal is sent. The phone attempts to use any existing Wi-Fi networks, and in their absence will connect over-the-air.
Aegis is currently working on cutting a deal with a major carrier. It plans to charge users approximately $10 to $20 a month for its services. The software will be initially aimed primarily at parents with teen drivers. They also anticipate corporate customers to add the software to their corporate cell phones.
The driver will have the option to override the new system if they indicate they are a passenger in the car that's driving. The override will be sent to the company's website, where it can be tracked by parents or employers to make sure their steeds are not lying.
Aegis does have one big deal already -- a partnership with Nationwide Mutual Insurance Co. The insurance company will offer its customers 3 percent to 10 percent family plan discounts if they adopt the technology.