All human drivers are susceptible to distraction behind the wheel, no matter how experienced or responsible. And few things are more distracting than the buzzing, glowing little screens we carry in our pockets. According to research quoted by Nissan, more than 30 percent of drivers admitted to using their phone while driving in 2016, compared to 8 percent in 2014. The company also found that 18 percent of drivers have texted while driving.
There are plenty of ways to avoid using smartphones on the road, starting with self control. Some people flick their device to flight mode, and there are plenty of apps to automatically reply to incoming messages with a predetermined response while driving. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto also work to cut distraction by putting main phone functions on the car's infotainment display, and allowing drivers to use the inbuilt voice assistant for hands-free messaging.
But Nissan has sought to remove gadget distraction completely by building a Faraday Cage for the armrest of its cars. Putting your phone into the Shield is essentially putting it in a box no electromagnetic signal can penetrate. Cellular, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth or GPS won't work while the armrest lid is closed.
Locking the phone away doesn't render it completely useless. Drivers are able to hook it up to the audio system using AUX or USB connections, although playing music through AUX does involve using the phone to change song, playlist or podcast. If the driver forgets to set their playlist up or wants to change their music on the fly, they're going to need to grab the phone again, which kind of defeats the purpose.
As such, we can't see this concept – as well intentioned as it may be – gaining much traction. People already know they shouldn't use their phones while driving, and even the prospect of a fine or an accident isn't enough to stop a worrying percentage of them. So the likelihood of such drivers exercising enough self control to lock their phone away for the duration of a car trip in the first place probably isn't high. Still, you have to at least give Nissan some credit for attempting to tackle the issue.
"Nissan produces some of the safest cars on the road today, but we are always looking at new ways to improve the wellbeing of our customers," says Alex Smith, Managing Director of Nissan GB. "The Nissan Signal Shield concept presents one possible solution for giving drivers the choice to remove all smartphone distractions while driving. This is about delivering more control at the wheel, not less. Some drivers are immune to the activity of their smartphone, but for those who struggle to ignore the beeps and pings, this concept provides a simple solution in this very 'connected' world we live in."
You can check the Signal Shield concept system out below.