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Nissan Works to Reduce Driver Distraction with Signal Shield

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With distracted driving becoming more pervasive on our roadways, many people are looking to tech companies to present solutions. Developers are under pressure to create new applications that help reduce or even prohibit cell phone functionality when the user is behind the wheel, and to encourage users with rewards to keep their eyes on the road.

It may be automakers, however, that step into fill the gap. According to a recent article in TechCrunch, Nissan has recently created a new “Signal Shield” prototype that blocks all wireless signals going to and from a cell phone, helping drivers ignore their devices until they arrive at their destination.

Nissan Signal Shield Blocks All Cellular Signals

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) states that distracted driving killed nearly 3,500 people in 2015, while nearly 400,000 were injured in crashes involving distracted drivers.

Nissan’s new prototype is said to be a type of “Faraday Cage,” an enclosure invented by Michael Faraday in the early 1800s that blocked electromagnetic fields. The Signal Shield exists as an armrest compartment. You put the phone in it, close the lid, and your phone, in essence, becomes inert.

Nissan uses conductive material to block all forms of electromagnetism, including Wi-Fi, phone calls, Bluetooth, etc. Yet there is a USB port inside the box that allows users to still enjoy music and podcasts through their phones. Opening the armrest restores the phone’s functionality.

The fact that the box also takes the phone out of site may help drivers to resist the temptation to check it. Nissan calls it the “digital detox,” a positive spin on the idea that positions it as a welcome respite from the constant activity of the phone.

According to the Washington Post, Nissan Motor GB managing director Alex Smith said in a recent announcement that the new prototype presents “one possible solution for giving drivers the choice to remove all smartphone distractions while driving.”

The Signal Shield is not yet available in the U.S. At this time, it is still just a concept, and it is unclear if or when it will be available in vehicles.

Drivers Can Still Choose to Text and Drive

Of course, the concept isn’t perfect, and critics have pointed out that the downfall of the Signal Shield and other products like it is that the driver still has the choice whether or not to use it. After all, if they really wanted to make their phones unavailable while driving, all they’d have to do is turn them off, or turn on the airplane mode to block signals from coming in.

The fact that most drivers don’t take these steps begs the question: Would they be any more likely to use the Signal Shield?

Safety experts agree that the only truly effective solution is an application or product that would automatically block smartphone signals while the vehicle is moving, taking choice away from the driver.