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Are ‘telematics’ the solution to distracted driving?

September 25, 2014 by Steven M. Gursten

New anti-distracted driving device uses Internet to determine when vehicle is in motion, identify driver’s identity and shut down texts

Scott Tibbits has developed a black box system to prevent texting and driving.

Technology is what got us into the dangerous and, too frequently, deadly problem of distracted driving. And it only makes sense that technology should provide us with the (life-saving) solution.

That’s the philosophy of chemical engineer-turned safe driving entrepreneur, Scott Tibbitts, whose company, Katasi, has created a device that can “block incoming and outgoing texts and … prevent phone calls from reaching a driver,” according to the New York Times.

In the September 14, 2014 article, entitled “Trying to Hit the Brakes on Texting While Driving,” New York Times writer Matt Richtel explained that Tibbitts’s distracted-driving solution depended on “connecting a car to the Internet.”  Specifically, here’s how Tibbitts’s product would work:

  • A small square black box would be plugged into a port called the “OBD 2” under a vehicle’s steering column;
  • The black box, which would be part of what’s called “telematics” (as it combines telecommunications and mobility), would send a wireless message that the car is moving;
  • The phone would send its own message about its location;
  • Information from the car and phone is sent to the company’s servers. Then, an algorithm weighs the incoming data with other information, like the location of the phones belonging to all the people who drive the car and the starting point of the trip.

Once it’s determined that the car is in motion and once of the driver’s identity is determined, the anti-distracted-driving product can:

  • Block texts, calls email and other data.

The New York Times reported that of the 5.6 million car crashes in 2012, 1.48 million of them involved “someone using a cell phone or texting.”

That’s an astounding number. And telematics may provide the answer.

Tibbitt’s idea of disabling phones is not a new one. I was present at the Advanced Motor Vehicle Seminar, where lawyers were talking about why people were able to send and receive texts in moving automobiles. And while many lawyers were wondering about potential conflicts of interest with the cell phone carriers and similar companies who have a financial interest in not impeding the ability of people to text no matter where they are, there seemed very little that could be done by the legal profession at the time to remedy the situation. Tibbitt’s idea is to bypass the cell phone companies by tying the car to the Internet.  If he proves right, that’s more than one million people every year involved in motor vehicle accidents that could be prevented.

Let’s hope he’s right.

Related information:

Texting while driving now the No. 1 killer of teen drivers

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