Breakthrough in technology to prevent texting and driving
Smartphones have become an essential part of everyday life, but they can be highly distracting for a driver. Racelogic have devised a novel method to prevent mobile phone use by the driver of a moving vehicle.
The World’s smartest technology companies are continuously developing their apps to grab your attention away from whatever else you may be doing. It has been estimated that 26% of all vehicle accidents involve drivers talking and texting on cell phones.
The obvious solution is to restrict the functions of the driver’s phone, but how do you do this without affecting any passengers? Consumers would not accept a total ban on mobile phone use in a moving vehicle, yet this is what the UK Government is threatening.
Determining the difference between the driver and passenger has proven to be a very difficult problem to solve. There are currently two class action lawsuits being brought against Apple for not using technology they have patented which purports to address this issue.
Racelogic supply innovative technology to all of the major motor manufactures and phone companies in the world to assist in the testing of their new products. Because of our expertise in both fields, we felt that we could be in a good position to come up with a simple solution. We realised that if the phone companies collaborated with the car companies, then this problem could be more easily solved.
We took what was a very simple idea of transmitting a small electrical signal through the body via touch, and from it we have developed a reliable method to detect if a driver is using their phone.
By placing a low energy transmitter in the driver’s seat, and a receiver on the phone, a signal can be detected every time the driver touches his mobile screen. The signal is passed from the seat, through the driver using the near field radiation effect, and a small circuit on the phone detects this signal and then locks the screen when the vehicle starts moving.
At the moment this is achieved using a separate circuit, but as near field communication chips (NFC) already exist within most mobile phones, it would just require some simple additional software.
Because it relies on touch, this signal will only be picked up if the person using the phone is sat in the driver’s seat, and the other occupants of the vehicle will be able to use their phones.
Racelogic Managing Director and founder, Julian Thomas, says: “I have always loved driving, but recently I have begun to feel uneasy knowing that other drivers are using their phone instead of concentrating on where they are going. It was this fear that motivated me to try and find a simple solution.
I believe that the technology we have developed is the missing piece of the puzzle, and it should allow mobile phone companies and car companies to collaborate in reducing the large numbers of accidents caused by drivers becoming distracted by their mobile phones.”
A working system is available on a vehicle for demonstration. A Patent has been filed covering this method, Application Number 1705276.2.
More about the method
The transmitter is located under the driver’s seat and uses a low energy, 75KHz carrier frequency modulated with a sine wave. The transmitter is connected to the driver’s seat which has conductive thread woven into the existing stitching to achieve a strong induced signal in the body of the driver.
The receiver is a simple FM demodulator which passes the signal into a small microprocessor. The processor analyses the signal and determines if the driver is touching the phone. If the driver is touching the phone, a Bluetooth linked Flic button is used to send signal to the phone to lock the home screen.
The driver has to be over 20cm away from the seat before the signal becomes too small to be detected. The signal is attenuated very strongly over this distance and therefore cannot be picked up by any of the passengers.
The electrical signal levels are significantly lower energy than any of the signals emanating from a mobile phone in normal use, and thus are completely harmless for continuous exposure.
What the phone allows or does not allow when the vehicle is moving would be up to the phone companies to decide, presumably as a minimum, emergency calls would be allowed.
We have trialled the system with a cross section of drivers, and despite their best efforts of lifting themselves out of the seat, sitting on wooden beaded seat covers, touching the screen very quickly, using stylus pens or even gloves, they cannot fool the system!
Racelogic are an electronics company based in Buckingham in the UK producing the VBOX range of GPS and video equipment for development of road cars and race cars. We are specialists in advanced driver safety systems and work closely with car manufacturers and tech companies on autonomous driving development.
With a staff of 85 people, and offices in four countries, we supply every car manufacturer in the world, such as BMW, Audi, Porsche, Tesla, Ford, Aston Martin Ferrari as well as Formula One teams and TV Shows such as TopGear and the Grand Tour.
We also supply many major tech companies such as Google, Apple, SpaceX, Qualcomm, and Broadcom with our LabSat GPS simulator product which is used to verify, test and validate GPS enabled products such as smartphones and wearables.
Racelogic are currently celebrating their 25th year in business and have won numerous awards including three Queen’s awards, one for Innovation, and two for Exports. We turnover around £16m per year, and 87% of our products are exported.
Julian Thomas started the company in 1992, and has a degree in Electronics and Physics from Durham and is also a successful motor racing driver who has invented various technical solutions to help drivers go faster on a race track.