Nissan has invented a method to stop drivers using their phones at the wheel – and it’s all thanks to Victorian scientist Sir Michael Faraday
British scientists have created a smartphone signal-blocker that stops mobile users being distracted while behind the wheel.
Designed to help curb the ‘epidemic’ of smart-phone while driving, it is aimed at ‘compulsive checkers’ who can’t resist the ‘temptation’ of checking every message.
Created by car giant Nissan, the Signal Shield uses 19th century technology to create a simple solution to a 21st century motoring problem.
It creates a secure flip-top signal-blocking compartment in the armrest of the car into which drivers can place their phones to block out all cellular, Bluetooth and wi-fi signals.
Its inventors believe it will be particularly helpful for motorists who really don’t want to use their phone while driving – whether illegally hand-held or legally ‘hands-free’ – but find the ‘temptation’ to answer irresistible.
It works on the principle of the ‘Faraday cage’ – developed 180 years ago by English scientist Sir Michael Faraday.
The ‘cage’ is an enclosure made of a conductive material, such as wire mesh, which blocks electromagnetic fields.
The principle has been demonstrated most spectacularly in experiments since the Victorian era to the present day, when people stand inside a giant metal cage and are protected from bolts of electricity.
It is also the reason why people take shelter from a lightning storm in their car – as the insulating rubber tyres turn the metal car into an impromptu Faraday’s cage.
Similarly, when an electronic device, like a smartphone, is placed inside such a ‘cage’, any incoming electromagnetic signals – such as cellular or Bluetooth data – are distributed across the cage’s external conducting material and so prevented from reaching the device.
The prototype Signal Shield has been developed and tested in the UK by Nissan GB on one of its Juke sports utility vehicles with a view to it becoming a potential in-car option for millions of customers.
The technology has been designed to help curb the use of smart-phone while driving and is aimed at ‘compulsive checkers’ who can’t resist the ‘temptation’ of taking selfies or checking messages
It was praised by the RAC whose damning report into smartphone and texting abuses at the wheel sparked the Daily Mail’s successful campaign to persuade the Government to increase penalties for mobile phone misuse to six penalty points and a £200 fine. It means a driver could lose their licence after two offences.
A Nissan spokesman said: ‘It’s the 21st century application of a Victorian invention. Nissan GB has adopted a technology that’s almost 200 years old to create a concept solution for reducing smartphone distraction at the wheel.
‘The beauty of the design is its simplicity. The Nissan Signal Shield is a prototype compartment within the arm rest of a Nissan Juke that is lined with a Faraday cage, an invention dating back to the 1830s.
‘Once a mobile device is placed in the compartment and the lid closed, the Nissan Signal Shield creates a ‘silent zone’, blocking all of the phone’s incoming and outgoing cellular, Bluetooth and Wi-Fi connections.’
Nissan said the shield gives drivers choice about whether to eliminate distractions caused by the millions of text messages, social media notifications and app alerts that are ‘pushed’ to smartphones each day.
They added: ‘Users are becoming habitually more tempted to check text messages and notifications as they appear on their phone’s screen, even if they are driving.
‘The Nissan Signal Shield gives drivers the choice between being able to contact and be contacted from the road, or creating a ‘phone-free’ space and time. It means a digital detox and a drive that’s free of incoming distractions.’
To restore the phone’s wireless connections, drivers simply open the arm rest to reveal the compartment – without taking eyes off the road or touching the phone itself.
Drivers who want to listen to music or podcasts stored on their smartphone can still connect to the car’s entertainment system via a physical wire link to the USB or auxiliary ports.
No signal: Drivers want to listen to music or podcasts stored on their smartphone can still connect to the car’s entertainment system via a physical wire
Alex Smith, managing director of Nissan Motor GB Ltd, said mobile phone use at the wheel is a ‘growing concern’ for car-makers.
He added: ‘Some drivers are immune to the activity of their smartphone, but for those who struggle to ignore the beeps and pings, this concept provides a simple solution in this very ‘connected’ world we live in.’
‘Nissan produces some of the safest cars on the road today, but we are always looking at new ways to improve the wellbeing of our customers.’
RAC road safety spokesman Pete Williams said: ‘Our research shows that handheld phone use by drivers has reached epidemic proportions.
‘Many people have become addicted to them. However, the use of a handheld phone when driving represents both a physical and mental distraction and it has been illegal since 2003.
‘For those who can’t avoid the temptation, this simple but pretty clever tech gives them a valuable mobile-free zone’.
The RAC, which is urging drivers to pledge not to use a phone at the wheel (www.bephonesmart.uk), says the number of drivers admitting to handling their phone in the car has almost quadrupled from 8 per cent in 2014 to 31 per cent in 2016.
Research shows that drivers are four times more likely to be in a crash if they are using a phone whilst driving, and their reaction times are two-times slower than those drink-driving.
Just under half of drivers (49 per cent) aged 25 to 34 admitted they sometimes go online or use apps while driving. Almost a third of drivers in the same age group said they do this several times a week at least.