Tuesday, January 26, 2021

Engineer hopes black box will prevent texting accidents

Each day in the United States, more than 9 people are killed and more than 1,060 people are injured in car crashes that are reported to involve a distracted driver, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Inventor and chemical engineer Scott Tibbitts, whose company worked with NASA creating motors and docking stations, has spent the last five years creating a device that stops drivers’ phones from sending and receiving text messages and phone calls.

Katasi, Tibbitts’ Colorado-based technology company, was founded in 2009 by Tibbitts and a group of executives. It was after an engineering VP was killed in a car accident by a driver who was texting, the team was inspired them to answer the question “How can we stop texting and driving?”

Their solution, a small black box that is plugged into the steering column of a vehicle, was completed in early February and is set to hit the market this summer, according to the New York Times. The device works by first sending out a wireless message that the car is moving, first sending a message to the Katasi servers that the car is moving, then sends a second message from the phone indicating its location. The servers then block communication to the phone.

Although many people are guilty of texting and driving, younger drivers bare most of the blame.

According to a survey done by www.distraction.gov, drivers under 25 are more likely to text and drive than any other age group, and are the least likely to pull over when sending a message. Only 8 percent of drivers between 18 and 20 years of age say they would pull over to text.

“I think this device is a good idea,” Plattsburgh State junior Bridget Manzano said. “Preventing texting and driving is important, especially for college students who love their phones. With a few adjustments, I think the product would be a success.”

However, some students feel that delayed access to a phone could be potentially dangerous and prevent emergency services from being contacted.

“I don’t condone texting and driving, but in the event of an emergency I would want to have access to my phone quickly,” PSUC junior Jordan Papin said. “I was in an accident two years ago during the winter and without having the ability to use my phone immediately, things could have been much worse.”

Along with $450,000 of his own money, Tibbitts was able to secure a $1-million dollar investment from American Family Insurance.

Although there is plenty of support for this new device, the intricate planning and networking that would make the product operational on a national level has not been worked out.

Tibbitts was also able to get a testing period with Sprint and was allowed to use their network temporarily. However, because of issues with legal liability, mounting costs and unclear returns, the product was stalled, perhaps indefinitely, according to the New York Times.

Email Thomas Marble at thomas.marble@cardinalpointsonline.com.

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