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On the phone while driving? This research may put an end to that

Researchers in Brazil are working on a system that can detect when you are on the phone behind the wheel. It won't lock you out of your phone, or notify the police, at least not yet.
August 17, 2014
Android Auto

Many localities have enacted distracted driving laws, requiring drivers to maintain a hands-off approach to technology while on the go. While this is generally a very good thing, it has not been easy to enforce. Sure, there are stiff fines and other undesirable punishments, but only if you get caught. What if your car and phone could talk and could lock you out of your phone while you are driving?

A team at the Brazilian Santa Catarina State University are reportedly working on a system, while not as intrusive as I described, that will simply combine hardware and software to identify when you are using your phone in the car. It won’t lock you out of your phone. Yet.

The system works by placing a tiny camera in your dashboard that is focused on your face. Using pattern recognition algorithms, the camera can detect when you bring your hand up to your head, as if holding a cell phone.

Driving on the phone detection

There are certainly many other techniques that could have been used here, but this one appears to be self contained within the automobile, not requiring anything of the phone for this to work. On the flip side, the tech is currently defeated by simply wearing gloves, or hiding hands in long hair, meaning it could be a while before it is polished for real world applications.

While this sets the stage for actions to prevent the driver from, or penalize them for, talking and driving, nothing has been enacted just yet.

It will certainly be interesting to see where they go with this, and, more importantly, if any government or automotive manufacturer pick up the tech and start placing it in cars. While I am ultimately against forcing individuals to do the responsible thing, I can see how this could become an excellent tool to be used in the same way as a breathalyzer ignition lock – helping parents protect their under aged drivers and as mandated by law enforcement for a proven offender.

Distracted Driving grand-theft-auto-san-andreas-android-1

The MIT Technology Review has more information on this research, head on over to their site to see the details. In the end, MIT suggests that, since the tech is so easily defeated, the approach should still be to educate drivers, or otherwise convince them that using a handset while driving is inherently very dangerous. Pull it over or call back later.

What do you think, should your car have the ability to prevent you from using your phone behind the wheel?