University of Utah engineers have invented a wireless car key device
that stops teenage motorists from talking on their
cell phone or sending text messages while driving. The University of Utah has done a lot research to prove you should not talk while driving.
The way their key system works is each driver get his/her own key. When the key is extended from the
device, it sends a signal to the teenage driver's phone, putting the
phone in "driving mode" so it cannot be used to talk or send texts.
phone displays a stop sign while in driving mode. The University has
licensed the Key2SafeDriving technology to a private company, which should have the device on the market within six months. It may be available
through cell phone plan providers and cost around $50.
The inventors would like cell phone use (or non-use) while driving can be compiled into a
"safety score" and sent monthly to insurance companies, which then
would provide discounts to motorists with good scores. The score also
could include data recorded via Global Positioning System (GPS)
satellites on the driver's speeding, rapid braking or running of
lights, which are calculated by comparing the driver's position with a
database of maps, speed limits, stop lights and so on.
How Key2SafeDriving Works
system includes a device that encloses a car key - one for each teen
driver or family member. The device connects wirelessly with each key
user's cell phone via either Bluetooth or RFID (radio-frequency
To turn on the engine, the driver
must either slide the key out or push a button to release it. Then the
device sends a signal to the driver's cell phone, placing it in
"driving mode" and displaying a "stop" sign on the phone's display
While in driving mode, teen drivers cannot use their cell
phones to talk or send text messages, except for calling 911 or other
numbers pre-approved by the parents - most likely the parents' own cell
Incoming calls and texts are automatically answered with
a message saying, "I am driving now. I will call you later when I
arrive at the destination safely."
When the engine is turned off,
the driver slides the key back into the device, which sends a "car
stopped" signal to the cell phone, returning it to normal communication
The device can't be "tricked" by turning the phone off and
on again because the phone will receive the "driving mode" signal
whenever the car key is extended.
Adult drivers cannot text or
use a handheld cell phone, but the Key2SafeDriving system does allow
them to talk using a hands-free cell phone - even though studies by
University of Utah psychologists indicate hands-free phones are just as
distracting as handheld phones.
Here's a video showing how it works:
An Invention is Born
new invention began with Wally Curry, Salt Lake City native who graduated
from the University of Utah with an accounting degree and premedical
training in 1993. He returned from the Medical College of Wisconsin for
his surgical residency in urology at University Hospital during
1998-2003. He now is a urologist in Hays, Kan.
His concern with
driving-while-talking began because, as a doctor, "the hospital is
calling me all the time on my cell phone when I'm driving."
day while driving home, he saw a teenage girl texting while driving,
making him worry about his 12- and 14-year-old daughters, who are
approaching driving age.
"I thought, this is crazy, there has got
to be something to stop this, because not only is she putting people at
risk, but so was I," Curry says. "It struck me pretty hard that
something should be done."
Curry's initial idea was a GPS system
to detect a moving cell phone and disable it when it moved at driving
speeds. Meanwhile, someone else developed a similar system based on the
same idea. But it cannot distinguish if the cell phone user is driving
a car or is a passenger in a moving car, bus or train - a problem
overcome by Key2SafeDriving.
In early 2008, Curry called Larry Reaveley, a civil engineering professor at the University
of Utah, who suggested Curry contact Zhou, a specialist in
"intelligent" transportation systems. Zhou and Curry then came up with
the idea of blocking cell phone usage via a vehicle ignition key.
a native of Liuzhou, China, joined the University of Utah faculty in
early 2007. He received his Ph.D. degree from the University of
Maryland in 2004. He has worked for a California company that sold a
product that provides traffic information to motorists using GPS