When it comes to safe driving tips, taking your hands off the steering wheel to make or receive calls doesn't rate way up there. Many people instead use hands-free voice prompt systems, although these can also be be distracting, as they require users to think of the correct prompts and then speak them very clearly. Drive offers an alternative – it's a device that's controlled using finger movements, and it won't work unless the user's hands are on the wheel.
Created by former Apple engineer Ronald Isaac, the Drive device mounts magnetically on the steering column, and pairs via Bluetooth with a variety of messaging apps on the user's iOS or Android smartphone. It emits two pulsing infrared light beams, to the 10 and 2 o'clock positions on the steering wheel. By moving their fingers – but keeping their hands on the wheel – users interrupt those beams.
This allows them to interact with the device, toggling through its different features. These include the ability to have messages and notifications read out to them, dictating message replies by voice, accessing Siri, and making and receiving phone calls.
Additionally, it utilizes three built-in microphones instead of the usual single mic used by most systems. This reportedly helps reduce the amount of background noise it picks up, thus allowing humans, Siri, and its own voice recognition software to better understand what the user is saying.
Three capacitive touch buttons on top are used to control functions that aren't likely to be accessed much while driving – these include volume control, power on/off and password entry. There's also a proximity sensor that mutes embarrassing messages with the swipe of a hand.
Isaac is currently raising production funds for Drive, on Kickstarter. A pledge of US$149 will get you one, when and if they reach production. The planned retail price is $199.
You can see a demo of the device, in the following pitch video.