With almost one in five UK drivers admitting to having illegally texted while driving, Nissan GB is adopting technology developed in the early 19th century to reduce the problem of smartphone distraction when behind the wheel.
The beauty of the design is its simplicity. The company’s new Signal Shield is a prototype compartment within the arm rest of a Nissan Juke that is lined with a Faraday cage, invented by the English scientist Michael Faraday in 1836. The ‘cage’ is an enclosure made of a conductive material, such as wire mesh, which blocks electromagnetic fields. When an electronic device, such as a smartphone, is placed inside, any incoming radio frequency (RF) signals, such as cellular, Bluetooth or wi-fi data, are distributed across the cage’s external conducting material and prevented from reaching the device. Once a mobile device is placed in the compartment and the lid closed, the Signal Shield creates a ‘silent zone’, blocking all of the phone’s incoming and outgoing connections.
The concept is designed to give drivers a choice about whether to eliminate the distractions caused by the millions of text messages, social media notifications and app alerts that are ‘pushed’ to smartphones each day. According to the RAC, distracted driving is a growing problem, with the number of drivers admitting to handling their phone in the car increasing from 8% in 2014 to 31% in 2016. Users are becoming habitually more tempted to check text messages and notifications as they appear on their phone’s screen, even if they are driving. Nissan’s own research found almost one in five drivers (18%) admitted to having texted behind the wheel.
The Signal Shield concept provides optional connectivity, giving drivers the choice between being able to contact and be contacted from the road, or creating a ‘phone-free’ space that is free of incoming distractions. If drivers want to listen to music or podcasts stored on their smartphone, they can still connect to the car’s entertainment system via the USB or auxiliary ports. The device will maintain wired connectivity even when in the Signal Shield compartment. To restore the phone’s wireless connections, drivers just need to open the arm rest to reveal the compartment, which can be done without taking eyes off the road or touching the phone itself, and the device can reconnect with the mobile network and the car’s Bluetooth system.