Called Key2SafeDriving (K2SD), the device will not only prevent drivers from running their mouths on the mobile phone, but also prevent them from sending text messages while the vehicle is in motion. Anyone will agree that these annoying people can not only be a nuisance, but highly dangerous in any kind of condition. This group is usually focused on the tiny screen or the current conversation rather than what's going on around them, and currently represent 5 percent of the adult drivers out there on the road; 10 percent of teen drivers are talking and/or texting.
Created by Dr. Xuesong Zhou (University of Utah)and Dr. Wallace Curry (Western Kansas Urological Associates), K2SD is one of the many attempts to curb reckless driving, whether it's a teen or a foolish adult. Back in October, we reported on Ford's MyKey, a device that will keep the car throttled under 80 mph as well as annoy passengers to buckle up and keeping stereo levels down. But with the K2SD, there are no speed limitations, but rather means to keep the focus on the road and enforcing mobile phone laws already set in place in most states.
"Many states explicitly prohibit talking, text-messaging,or playing video games on hand-held mobile phones while driving," says Accendo's website, the technology-licensing partner backing the K2SD. "Additionally,a number of states, such as California, have passed laws banning or restricting young drivers (under age 18) from using mobile phones, or other types of mobile devices while driving. However, a recent study in North Carolina finds that teenagers seem to ignore such restrictions. A ban on the use of wireless devices by teenagers while driving was enacted in Spring, 2007." (note: in North Carolina, teens are only allowed to use a mobile phone while driving when talking to parents or calling 911.)
K2SD's solution is rather simple: the key is pre-configured to connect wirelessly to the mobile phone through Bluetooth or RFID. Once the device turns over the engine, it sends out a "driving" signal to the associated mobile phone and switches it into "driving mode." As a result, all incoming phone calls and text messages receive auto-replies, and outgoing texting is disabled. Adults must use hands-free headsets to communicate, and teens are locked out of calls and texting period (save for emergencies).
The device is reliable in that it does not depend on GPS or cell tower triangulation, and even allows the user to access all mobile phone functions when NOT driving (as in riding shotgun, on a bus, in the backseat ofa getaway car). And for those teens who think they can sneak a message or two without getting caught, the phone will contact the parent immediately. But there's plus side to all of this oppression: safe driving generates a good score, and that good score translates into dollars for the consumer, as the data collected is transmitted to the insurance company who in turn offers incentives.
Of course, the K2SD device is probably less offensive than this one, an invention created by Chinese university students Zhao Wencai and LiZhoumu. In essence, the driver sticks his/her finger into a soft hole mounted on the front of a device (like some naughty porn star no less), accessing a fingerprint scanner located at its base. The scanner then checks the driver's blood alcohol level, and will not start the engine if the levels are too high. The device could also serve as a security system, turning the car on only when accessed by the registered driver's finger (severed or un-severed). Of course, this device could cause problems with horny teens, especially pubescent boys, but the idea behind this device shows how consumers, businesses, and government officials want safer roads, and are conjuring new ways to ensure consumer safety.
It will be interesting to see if devices such as K2SD and MyKey actually catch on. Of course, teens will find ways around any security measure, but at least, with the implementation of these devices, motorists can feel more assured that the road between point A and point B won't seem like such a deadly carnival ride. And who knows, perhaps the percentage of road-rage-induced drivers will drop.