This Technology Automatically Blocks All Devices That Could Distract Drivers

The position of all devices would be automatically monitored 6 photos
Photo: Bogdan Popa/autoevolution/USPTO
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Driver distraction continues to be a major concern in the automotive market, but a new technology developed by Qualcomm could resolve it once and for all.
Detailed in a patent covering a “method and apparatus for relative positioning of a user equipment in a vehicle,” the new system essentially blocks all devices that are handed to the drivers.

As such, the person behind the wheel wouldn’t move their eyes off the road, while the other car occupants would be allowed to freely interact with all devices.

Electronics, in general, and mobile devices, in particular, are considered a major source of distraction, and curbing the use behind the wheel is a global fight that is underway. But despite the investments on this front, texting and driving continues to be a common cause of crashes.

Qualcomm says that by automatically blocking the use of electronics behind the wheel, drivers would have no other option than to focus on the road ahead.

To do this, Qualcomm explains its technology would first have to determine the relative position of a device inside a car. To do this, it would use angular measurements, including the so-called angle of arrival (AOA). As such, the position of a device in the car would be determined based on its response to certain wireless transceivers.

Qualcomm says it can use wideband signals specifically for this purpose, eventually being able to tell where electronic devices are in the car with respect to the driver’s seat.

The system can monitor the position of devices in real time, so whenever they get close to the driver, certain features could be automatically disabled. The whole concept would work both for devices worn by drivers, such as a smartwatch, as well as for those used by other vehicle occupants.

The smartwatch would automatically switch to a driving mode to silent notifications and other alerts that could distract drivers. Devices operated by car passengers would be muted as well whenever they get close to drivers. As such, if one of the vehicle occupants wants to hand over a device to the driver, it is automatically switched to driving mode when its new position is determined.

The system can be further enhanced with additional controls, including allowing certain capabilities on the scanned devices. For example, a smartwatch could still allow critical health warnings, such as heart-rate monitoring.

Mobile devices would still allow emergency phone calls.

Eventually, the technology could restrict the use of all connected electronics in a vehicle, therefore reducing distraction in a much more significant manner than systems implemented at the device level. For the time being, however, Qualcomm’s idea is still in the patent stage, so you’d better not hold your breath for a mass-produced version.
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 Download: Method and apparatus for relative positioning of a user equipment in a vehicle (PDF)

About the author: Bogdan Popa
Bogdan Popa profile photo

Bogdan keeps an eye on how technology is taking over the car world. His long-term goals are buying an 18-wheeler because he needs more space for his kid’s toys, and convincing Google and Apple that Android Auto and CarPlay deserve at least as much attention as their phones.
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