Company Claims New System Will Automatically Detect Drivers On Phones

from the good-luck-with-that dept

We’ve had all sorts of stories about speed cameras and the problems they can cause — but there’s no doubt that it’s quite a lucrative business for the providers of the speed cameras (who often agree to install them for free in exchange for keeping a percentage of the ticket proceeds). Of course, with the speed camera and red light camera market getting saturated, what other driving offenses can companies try to automate systems to catch? According to Slashdot, one company is working on a system to automatically determine if drivers are driving while talking on their mobile phones. There are all sorts of questions raised by this. Already we’ve seen supporters of laws against driving while yakking rethink their position, as it’s not the yakking that’s the problem — but driver’s doing anything distracting while driving — and banning things one by one isn’t an effective solution. However, a bigger point is how could this technology possibly work? How can it tell that the driver is talking rather than a passenger? How can it distinguish between a driver using a mobile phone or an earpiece (or a system like OnStar?)? None of these questions are answered at all — and there’s also some bizarre offhand comment about how the system can use a paintball gun to mark cars for police to ticket, which makes it sound like the whole thing might just be a spoof rather than anything real. In the meantime, what’s next? A device to automatically catch people having sex while driving? Or what about a device to catch people eating spaghetti while driving?

Rate this comment as insightful
Rate this comment as funny
You have rated this comment as insightful
You have rated this comment as funny
Flag this comment as abusive/trolling/spam
You have flagged this comment
The first word has already been claimed
The last word has already been claimed
Insightful Lightbulb icon Funny Laughing icon Abusive/trolling/spam Flag icon Insightful badge Lightbulb icon Funny badge Laughing icon Comments icon

Comments on “Company Claims New System Will Automatically Detect Drivers On Phones”

Subscribe: RSS Leave a comment
TheDock22 says:

Does this scare anyone else?

Statistics show that driving while talking on the cell phone increases the chance of an accident by 400%

So, basically that means if I talk on my cell phone while driving I am not only guaranteed to get into an accident, but also wreck 3 other peoples’ cars? Hmm…I think someone out there is making up statistics again.

The company attaches a paint gun to mark the car, or even an EMP gun that can disable the offending cell phone.

Now the paintball marker idea is kind of funny. I like the idea of driving around looking at vehicles with paintballs on them. Might just be me though. Now the EMP gun scares the daylights out of me. My cell phone was not cheap, and I guarantee any company that creates a device to ruin my cell phone is getting sued. Also, what if I just have my cell phone in the car and the person ahead of me sets off the EMP gun…does that mean my cell phone would be ruined to?

Chronno S. Trigger says:

Re: Does this scare anyone else?

EMP Gun? That not only would affect your phone but it would also kill the car and every other electronic devices in it that are on.

This has got to be fake. Paint balls are one thing they may or may not dent the car but the paint should just wash off. But EMPs are not something you want to be using in a heavily populated area. (Especially when in a car with power steering and ABS)

boost says:

Re: Does this scare anyone else?

Does someone have trouble with math?

If your likely hood of getting into an accident is 100 percnet already then increasing it by 400 percent would increase your likelihood of an accident by an impossible amount “…but also wreck 3 other peoples’ cars?” However, if your likelihood of an accident on the way home from work were say 2% then increasing that likelihood by 400% would only increase the likelihood of an accident to 8%.

TheDock22 says:

Re: Re: Does this scare anyone else?

Ah I see, and I also know why they say 400%. An increase from 2% to 8% doesn’t exactly make me want to turn-off my cell phone in a vehicle.

I agree that the paint ball marker probably isn’t a high-force one and that the paint balls are pretty soft to begin with. That would cause the paint ball to explode on a slight impact. I mean, probably about the same as throwing a small snowball at a car made with fluffy snow. It just explodes, but doesn’t leave a dent. And it’s easy to make paint that won’t stain the vehicle.

The EMP gun is weird though. Maybe an EMP signal strong enough to disable a phone isn’t strong enough to disable the vehicle? I don’t know, I’m not an expert, but it still scares me.

Ray Thomasson says:

Re: Does this scare anyone else?

You dumb ass, increasing the chance of an accident by 400% just means it is 4 times as likely that you will have an accident. For instance, if the chances of having an accident while not talking on the phone were one in 1,200, then while talking on the phone the chances would be one in 300, which increased the likelihood by 400%. Don’t accuse people of making up statistics just because you don’t understand what they are saying.

Ray Thomasson says:

Re: Re: Does this scare anyone else?

On another note, many people are right that cellphones aren’t the only distrations people have in their cars. I actually saw a guy the other day who was clearly distracted while driving. He was all over the lane. When I got close to him, he actually had a paperback book propped up on his steering wheel reading it. Made me want to make a citizen’s arrest.

Boost says:

Re: Re:

I can’t tell you how many times I’d wished I had some magnetic signs made that I could throw out my window and stick to other people’s cars. They would say things like, “Improper lane usage” and “bicycles are vehicles too” and “I don’t care if you want to drive slow, but try to do it so you’re not blocking traffic” and my favorite one of all…”Are you in a hurry to sit at that traffic light?”

R3d Jack says:

Darwinian process

What a great idea! Design the paint ball gun to aim for the windshield. That way, when the perp is tagged, they will be distracted and possibly unable to see at all. This could lead to fatal accident, eliminating the problem driver permanently. As far as EMP, why not use microwaves and aim at the driver’s head? Of course, both solutions could lead to problems for the passengers, but, how many drivers actually have passengers anyway?

ReallyEvilCanine (profile) says:


TheDock22: back to math class. A 400% increase in the chance of something happening means the odds have quadrupled. If you’re chances of being in an accident are 0.00271%/1,000 miles without the cell phone, they’ve shot up to 0,01084%/1,000 miles with it.

As Mike wrote (and I almost missed), how could any system tell if the person talking is the driver or a passenger? I disagree with him entirely, however, when “banning things one by one”. We banned alcohol and driving and it made a huge difference. Cell phones have been shown repeatedly (and not just on MythBusters) to impair drivers more than alcohol. Unfortunately, enforcing a ban on phone usage is a bit more difficult to enforce.

erica (user link) says:

Distractions, not cell phones are the problem.

Ok.. and not only the controversy about the passenger(s) using a cellphone.. what if the driver or passenger is using a system like onStar? Or, what about using a cellphone that is broadcast through the radio when its attached or any hands free system? Why disable those?

I agree that ANY distraction while driving is dangerious.. I ever had a car totaled because a guy was on a cellphone (In a work truck nonetheless) and hit me from behind when he did not brake at a traffic light.

But banning one object – a cellphone – will not stop people from eating while driving and other things. What about women who put makeup on while they are driving? Or parents who have kids shouting and fighting in the car while driving? Or two people are in an argument while one is driving? Someone watching a laptop computer or a GPS while driving (multiple injuries and even deaths have been reported from those electronics). All of these can be more distracting than talking on a cell phone.

If it is not one distraction, it will be another. The controversy should be distractions, not one object – a cellphone.

Anonymous Coward says:

The article doesn’t say paintball guns, it just says “paint guns”. If it is real, they probably don’t use a powerful paintball gun you are thinking of that will cause damage.

That 400% comment by TheDock22 was great. Seriously?

I agree with ReallyEvilCanine on the fact that banning things one-by-one is an effective and maybe the only possible way. If it reduces accidents and deaths, who cares if it is just one more thing banned?

When I first read the article, I imagined the company using cellphone towers to triangulate people’s coordinates in intervals; and, if they are on the road and moving faster than a human can move on their own, they would send the coordinates to patrol cars, who would confirm the usage. Paint? I don’t know about that…

txjump says:

a bit rediculous

i agree, you cant legislate against stupid.

i dont really yak and drive much so it wouldnt affect me too much. but goodness! it’s a bit rediculous to try catching me at talking on the phone. and who decided they wanted to develop such a tool? its probably the gps people in cahoots with some phone company.

and not to mention, i dont wash my car but twice a year unless someone does it for me. so what happens when i get hit with paint and i leave it there for three months. do i get multiple tickets for the same offense?

and what about motorcyle riders who have their cell in their helmet? ya just gonna pelt the rider? and what about the rider to rider helmets? is that considered talking on the phone? and cb radios? do all the truckers get painted? while its not a cell phone it is talking across the magic air waves. geez!

Anonymous Coward says:

You can legislate against stupid. That’s why we have so many laws. While the system isn’t perfect, it works in the sense that lives are saved and costs are reduced.

Everyone keeps harping on how there are other distractions. Who cares? If you could ban them all at once, that would be great; but we can’t. So, why does that make this ban so ridiculous?

Sam says:

WTF! Paintball gun?! Are they freaking crazy? Paintballs typically travel around 300fps and if one hits you at pretty much anything faster than hand thrown it can BLIND YOU.

Yeah great, now ban convertibles, rolling your windows down or using your wipers to wipe the paint off blocking your view.

Now ban paintball guns for people since you can sit on the edge of a highway and “tag” drivers knowing they will be pulled over.

How about a road crew using cell phones? What happens if the system sense movement + a cell and begins lobbing paintballs at the guys in orange?

Just take a freaking picture and send the drivers a ticket, don’t get overly complex.

Brian says:

Cellphones while driving...

On US Air Force bases they made it “Class A” infraction to talk on a cellphone without a hands-free device while driving. That means they can pull you over and ticket you SOLELY for using your cellphone and don’t have to wait until you do something else stupid. Why is this important? If you accumulate enough points in on-base violations (or automagically if you get a DUI) you lose your base driving priviliges–and let me tell you…some of these bases are HUGE == long, long walks.

Charlie on the PA Tpk (user link) says:

Enough with this nonsense

I’ve seen people reading newspapers, petting animals, slapping children, farding, and all sorts of other distractions, INCLUDING talking on cell phones.

Enough! We have laws that prohibit reckless driving! Lets enforce them and stop writing new legislation on only cell phones!

There are plenty of us out there who can talk and drive at the same time!

Nasty Old Geezer says:

Re: Enough with this nonsense

THe only problem is our legal system. If the law is too “vague” — meaning the exact circumstances are not spelled out — then most competent lawyers can show entrapment, unenforcability, discrimination, or some such crap.

I would recommend Predator drones, and thin the herd of nitwits, but that won’t happen.

So — ban each form of impairment as it gets identified, don’t leave the cop a lot of room for interpretation, get creative with enforcement, make it hurt a little to get the nitwit’s attention, save a few important lives — like mine.

txjump says:

laws are created to protect you from other people infringing on your rights. and when someone infringes on your right, they get punished.

the argument could be made that you have the right to reasonable safety while traveling on a highway. the ambiguity is the safety part. who decides where reasonable safety begins and ends.

the opposing argument to that is, until i have done something to make it unsafe for you, where have i violated your rights? so why is there a law saying i cant do something.

say its off peak hours and theres little or no traffic. im on the phone but im holding my lane, and making appropriate signals. i get taged by the gun. ive done nothing to endanger anyone but i get penalized for it.

now, say im in peak traffic, im on the phone and im weaving and/or failing to signal. i have violated your right to safety. guess what, there is already a law in place for that. its called reckless driving and failure to signal. we dont need another law specifing that the root cause of my recklessness is illegal.

if that were the case, we would need to make it illegal to be late for picking up your child from day care because it causes you to drive bad.

how about instead of standing on the side of the road using some toy to nail people, the police give tickets based on the recklessnes laws already in place. failure to signal should catch plenty of phone in hand cell user.

BTR1701 (profile) says:

Another problem with this...

…is that most anti-cell phone laws have exceptions built in to them. For example, in Washington DC it’s generally illegal to talk on a cell phone while driving unless you’re a law enforcement officer.

Any system implemented to catch people would have to take into account all the false positives where people aren’t actually breaking the law.

Add Your Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here

Comment Options:

Make this the or (get credits or sign in to see balance) what's this?

What's this?

Techdirt community members with Techdirt Credits can spotlight a comment as either the "First Word" or "Last Word" on a particular comment thread. Credits can be purchased at the Techdirt Insider Shop »

Follow Techdirt

Techdirt Daily Newsletter

Techdirt Deals
Techdirt Insider Discord
The latest chatter on the Techdirt Insider Discord channel...