Nissan created a concept to block phone signals and thus block one of the major distractions while driving, the wireless phone. The Nissan Signal Shield is a prototype compartment within the arm rest of a Nissan Juke that is lined with a Faraday cage, an invention dating back to the 1830s. Once a mobile device is placed in the compartment and the lid closed, the Nissan Signal Shield creates a ‘silent zone’, blocking all of the phone’s incoming and outgoing cellular, Bluetooth and Wi-Fi connections.
The concept is designed to give drivers a choice about whether to eliminate the distractions caused by the millions of text messages, social media notifications and app alerts that are ‘pushed’ to smartphones each day.
The Nissan Signal Shield concept provides optional connectivity, giving drivers the choice between being able to contact and be contacted from the road, or creating a ‘phone-free’ space and time. It means a digital detox and a drive that’s free of incoming distractions.
If drivers want to listen to music or podcasts stored on their smartphone, they can still connect to the car’s entertainment system via the USB or auxiliary ports. The device will maintain wired connectivity even when in the Nissan Signal Shield compartment.
To restore the phone’s wireless connections, drivers just need to open the arm rest to reveal the compartment – which can be done without taking eyes off the road or touching the phone itself – and the phone can reconnect with the mobile network and the car’s Bluetooth system.
The innovation works on the principle of the Faraday cage, an enclosure made of a conductive material, such as wire mesh, which blocks electromagnetic fields. It is named after the pioneering English scientist Michael Faraday, who invented it in the 1830s.
When an electronic device, like a smartphone, is placed inside, any incoming electromagnetic signals – such as cellular or Bluetooth data – are distributed across the cage’s external conducting material and so prevented from reaching the device.
A U.S study of over 1,000 drivers in 2014 found that 98% agreed it was dangerous to text and drive, but 74% claimed they had done so with 30% saying it is ‘simply a habit’ because they are so used to being connected to their phone, and they believed their driving performance was not impacted by texting.(2)
Dr Greenfield, founder of The Center for Internet and Technology Addiction and Assistant Clinical Professor of Psychiatry at The University of Connecticut School of Medicine, who worked on the report, said at the time of publication; “We compulsively check our phones because every time we get an update through text, email or social media, we experience an elevation of dopamine, which is a neurochemical in the brain that makes us feel happy. If that desire for a dopamine fix leads us to check our phones while we’re driving, a simple text can turn deadly.”
Young drivers in particular are more likely to be distracted. Just under half of drivers (49%) aged 25–34 admitted they sometimes go online or use apps while driving. Almost a third of drivers in the same age group said they do this several times a week at least.(5)
These compulsive habits are both dangerous and illegal. Drivers are four times more likely to be in a crash if they are using a phone whilst driving, and their reaction times are two-times slower than those drink-driving.(6)
Police believe more road accidents are caused by drivers using their mobile phones at the wheel than is currently shown in official records. Half of those surveyed also agreed the role of phones was even overlooked in fatal crashes, which currently account for around 20 fatalities a year.