Officials who keep track of such things say about 6,000 pedestrians were killed last year because of distraction. The main culprit blamed, of course, was texting while driving, but, really, there are a lot of things that can distract drivers and cause accidents. Various automakers have put out campaigns hoping to encourage people not to drive distracted, and many municipalities and states have cracked down on texting and driving.
Nissan is taking further steps. The company recently announced Signal Shield, an armrest equipped with a “Faraday Cage.” In case you’re not up on your tech-speak, a Faraday Cage blocks electric fields. They’ve been in use since the late 1830s for various applications, but it appears this is the first time they are being used in automobiles.
The system works by blocking all signals to the phone once it’s placed inside. That means no cellular signals, data, WiFi or Bluetooth. The prototype, manufactured for the Nissan Juke, is meant to keep your phone silent while you’re on the road. No beeps from incoming texts or chirps from social media.
Some people are asking “what’s the point?” Can’ you just turn your phone off if you want to ease possible distractions? Well, yes…but then you can’t listen to music or books, etc. With the Faraday Cage, you can still plug your phone in and listen to music through a USB or aux cable. But what about airplane mode? Well, sure, but with the Faraday, you can still connect to Bluetooth and make calls in many cases, if you choose to.
The key to the idea is blocking incoming calls, so drivers are not tempted to grab that phone and look away from the road every time it beeps or chirps or buzzes.
So, when will the tech be available? Well, according to various news reports, it already is. Sure, the product is still in prototype, but customers can buy Faraday bags online. Generally purchased by people concerned about their gear being hacked, the bags could be used to keep text-triggered teens and adults from grabbing for that phone when their eyes should be looking out for what’s around them.
From a public relations perspective, the move is an interesting one for Nissan. They are not only acknowledging the problem, they are giving people a chance to take active action about it. It’s more than just another PSA, it’s almost like the equivalent of locking up the snacks when you’re trying to diet. Extreme? Possibly. Attention-getting? Certainly. And that may be the point, after all.