Nissan goes back in time to stop you using your phone behind the wheel

The automaker hopes centuries-old technology can be used to solve modern problems.
Written by Charlie Osborne, Contributing Writer

Nissan hopes that technology pulled forward from the Victorian era can improve road safety by reducing distractions behind the wheel.

Mobile technology has paved the way for technological inventions, business opportunities, and enhanced communication, and it has made everything from traveling to talking more convenient to the general public. However, with any major shift in tech, there are pitfalls.

One issue that smartphones and other mobile gadgets have caused is increased distraction while driving. A lack of sleep, drugs, and alcohol all have an impact, but despite mobile device use being banned behind the wheel in many countries, distracted -- and therefore dangerous -- driving still claims the lives of drivers, passengers, and pedestrians every week.

It only takes a brief second to check your mobile device when you receive a notification, call, or alert -- and in that second, lives can change. As a lorry driver, last year discovered, scrolling for music can distract you enough behind the wheel that you crash and kill four people and land yourself a 10-year jail sentence.

Despite the risks, some drivers still insist on staying connected and checking their devices, out of habit or otherwise.

However, Nissan is considering ways to kill alerts and notifications while in transit to break drivers out of this behavior.

On Wednesday, the automaker revealed a concept idea, the Nissan Signal Shield, which is a prototype compartment held within the armrest of a Nissan Juke. The compartment is lined with a Faraday cage, an 1830s invention that uses mesh or wire plates to block electromagnetic fields.

Once a mobile device is placed in the compartment and the lid is closed, the cage then blocks the device's incoming and outgoing cellular, Bluetooth, and Wi-Fi connections.

Nissan says the concept is means of "a digital detox and a drive that's free of incoming distractions."

Rather than break away from all of a device's functionality, however, the cage does allow a smartphone to be connected to a vehicle's entertainment system through USB or auxiliary ports for listening to music or podcasts.

To reconnect the phone, drivers simply need to open the armrest lid to break the block.

According to the RAC, the driver distraction issue is becoming worse, with 26 percent of UK drivers admitting to checking texts, emails, and social media while driving. In addition, 19 percent of drivers said they text or post messages while on the road, and 14 percent even went so far to take photos and video. In total, despite being illegal, 31 percent of UK drivers also take handheld phone calls while driving.

"As mobile phone technology has advanced significantly many people have become addicted to them," said RAC road safety spokesman Pete Williams. "However, the use of a handheld phone when driving represents both a physical and mental distraction and it has been illegal since 2003."

"The Nissan Signal Shield is a good example of a technology that can help drivers be phone smart," the spokesman added. "For those who can't avoid the temptation, this simple but pretty clever tech gives them a valuable mobile-free zone."

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