Automotive

Drive makes phone-using drivers keep their hands on the wheel

Drive makes phone-using driver...
Drive responds to the user's finger movements, but only if their hands are where they should be
Drive responds to the user's finger movements, but only if their hands are where they should be
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Drive responds to the user's finger movements, but only if their hands are where they should be
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Drive responds to the user's finger movements, but only if their hands are where they should be
Features 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
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Features 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

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.

Features 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
Features 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

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.

Sources: RISE Devices, Kickstarter via IEEE Spectrum

6 comments
6 comments
Christian Lainesse
What if I drive a manual shifting car?
nicho
This is a solving the wrong problem. The problem isn't people not having their hands glued into a 10-2 position on the steering wheel. It's people being distracted while driving. Now I wonder how distracted people will be trying to get their hands into the right position to wiggle their fingers and make a call.
Mel Tisdale
Nicho's comment matches my understanding of why mobile 'phones are a source of danger when used by a driver. This extends beyond the supposed difference between the 'phone being in a hands-free situation or not.
When we get involved in a conversation we take turns to speak, obviously. We maintain our turn by the use of fillers, such as 'um,' 'ah' and repetition while we construct a response to what has just been said to us. The more important our reply, the deeper the distraction posed by this process. The difference between a car conversation between a driver and another person in a remote location, be it using the 'phone hand-held or not, and that between a fellow passenger is that with a fellow passenger, the driver can just break off from talking while they negotiate a particularly tricky situation without losing their turn to speak because the passenger can see why they have stopped talking. A remote caller cannot see the road situation, so the driver feels obliged to maintain their turn to speak otherwise their interlocutor will feel free to jump in. This extends into the situation where the remote caller, being unaware of the road conditions faced by the driver keeps on blithely talking when it is their turn, and thus distracts, the driver regardless of the complexity of the road conditions the driver is negotiating.
This Drive device is, therefore, as nicho states, a solution to the wrong problem. I have no idea what the solution to the right problem is, other than switching the darn thing off, and in the process lose a lot of good things, such as the ability to 'phone the emergency services and immediately give the GPS position of any incident, to name but one.
Texting while driving, on the other hand, should be classed as a capital offence and the execution be held in public in order to emphasise just how dangerous such behaviour is. I exaggerate, but only a little.
Mel Tisdale
Having mused on the problem of 'phone use in cars, perhaps there is a way of solving things. We know that the GPS system is capable of placing receivers within millimetres of their actual location. With this in mind, we could build into all mobile 'phones the ability to transmit at a standard frequency near to that of the GPS system a random number it has generated within itself and allocated to the call it is involved in. It would only do this if the vehicle is in motion. It would probably only need to transmit this number every five seconds or so and only for the briefest of length. Most smart 'phones have GPS built in, so this signal could be transmitted at very precise times.
We could have in each 'A' post interconnected receivers that not only receive the random number signal, but also the GPS time signal. Using the distance between them and the known time of broadcast, it would be possible to triangulate the location of the 'phone in the horizontal plane to within millimetres within the vehicle. If this falls anywhere within that of the driver's seat (at any height), a disconnect signal of the same random number that has been allocated to the call could be transmitted at a standard frequency. Receipt of this would cause the 'phone that is involved to cut it off. (Thus limiting the disconnect to one specific 'phone.) Obviously, there would be a second location identified, but this would be in front of the windscreen and thus safely ignored.
This method would enable calls to be made in the normal way by passengers and for passengers to take the call on behalf of the driver (if appropriate) by simply taking the 'phone away from the driver's seat before accepting the call. The moment the car stops normal service is resumed.
Seeing as autonomous vehicles are becoming all the rage, I assume that the current range of 'normal' vehicles will soon be equipped with the necessary features to have after-sales autonomous driving features fitted. Part of that process could be for the 'phone companies to provide phones that match the above system.
To those who say that autonomous vehicles will not need this system, "Wait and see," I say. One thing that is indicated is for there to be a universal set of standards so that one is not forced to buy 'phones from specific companies in order for them to only work specific makes of vehicle.
If nothing else, the above should be a thought starter for those who, unlike me, have a day job working in similar systems.
Ron Isaac
Hi Christian,
I am the creator of DRIVE. The idea behind DRIVE is that while your hands are being used to engage in more important things (such as gear shifting a manual car), that you do not interact with your phone. DRIVE regulates that for you. Once you are coasting on 4th or 5th gear and not much gear shifting is happening then, you could use both hands to activate DRIVE and have information flowed to you. I hope this answers your question. Please reach out with any other questions via our website at www.drivedevice.com
Ron
Ron Isaac
Hi nicho and Mel,
I am the creator of DRIVE. To summarize and second what you had outlined above, the main cause of distracted driving is the cognitive load on our brains - interacting with fancy touchscreens, radio/weather controls, eating, talking to others in the car, drinking, putting on makeup, shaving beards, making dangerous maneuvers, aggressive driving and the list goes on. Each of these activities contributes a distraction that is quantified by various factors such as our age, experience, mood, etc. When I set out to create DRIVE, I wanted it to be a device that helped regulate information flow from our connected devices when the driver expressed through the device that they were ready for it. This method involves putting your hands where they are supposed to be to "activate" it. We even go further than that through settings in the app to activate when both hands are on the wheel and there are no other noises in the car (such as talking, radio playing etc) - but these are settings that you can decide to enable/disable. There are no voice commands to distract you, no screens to touch to interact with it, and no buttons to reach out to. DRIVE is the best compromise to staying connected while driving and not abstaining from using the phone in the car. Please reach out to me via our website at www.drivedevice.com if you have any further questions/comments. My main goal is to reduce to zero the average of 11 teen deaths that happen every day in the US alone. I hope that this is helpful and please don't hesitate to reach out.
Best, Ron