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New System Detects Calls While Driving 421

Posted by CowboyNeal
from the police-states dept.
Gary writes "Talking on your cellphone while driving isn't a crime in most states, but it should be. Studies have shown that people who drive and talk are many times more likely to have an accident. A new company is releasing a device to automatically detect drivers talking on their cell phones. Instead of police officers needing to observe a cellphone in use, the system automatically detects a cell phone call and records which car was making the call." The article is fairly light on details, but it would be interesting to see how the system differentiates from a driver talking on a cell phone versus a mere passenger.
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New System Detects Calls While Driving

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  • Sooo... (Score:5, Funny)

    by Tuoqui (1091447) on Saturday June 16, 2007 @11:05AM (#19532509) Journal
    Who thinks a blow up doll in the car will fool this technology?
    • Re:Sooo... (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Technician (215283) on Saturday June 16, 2007 @11:46AM (#19532951)
      Who thinks a blow up doll in the car will fool this technology?

      More important, how many without a cell phone will be tagged because they have On Star. It may take the blinking 12 o'clockers a while to figure that one out.

      (Blinking 12 o'clockers, those with every VCR and microwave clocking blinking 12:00)
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by iamhassi (659463)
        "how many without a cell phone will be tagged because they have On Star."

        More importantly, what's GM going to do about this? There's big money in OnStar, costs $200-$300/yr if you pay yearly [onstar.com]. GM's just going to roll-over and take this?

        What about all the bluetooth headset providers? Most people bought the headsets specifically for driving.

        What about the National Association of Realtors? I can't imagine they're taking this sitting down and believe it or not they do have a pretty powerful lobbying [realestatejournal.com]
        • Re:Sooo... (Score:4, Informative)

          by Original Replica (908688) on Saturday June 16, 2007 @02:31PM (#19534487) Journal
          What about all the bluetooth headset providers? Most people bought the headsets specifically for driving.

          Headsets or speaker phones being safer while driving is a myth.

          "The principal findings for this experiment are that: (a) SPs that engaged in cell phone conversations missed twice as many simulated traffic signals as when they were not talking on the cell phone, (b) SPs took longer to react to those signals that they did detect, and (c) these deficits were equivalent for both hand-held and hands-free cell phone users." http://www.nsc.org/issues/idrive/inincell.htm [nsc.org]


          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by dindi (78034)
            I talk on the phone using my headset (wireless/bluetooth) while driving and I do not feel a problem about it.

            Dialing, checking email, etc. can be a problem, but talking on a headset that does not even have a cord dangling around?

            Please explain me this: how is talking to my wife sitting next to me safer than talking to her on the phone through a headset?

            I mean, having a person in your car IS more dangerous:

            1. you see less (how many times do you have to tell your passenger that YOU have to see not him/her wh
    • Who thinks a blow up doll in the car will fool this technology?
      Hey, if it works for HOV lanes...
  • by nurb432 (527695) on Saturday June 16, 2007 @11:07AM (#19532533) Homepage Journal
    But this sounds rather invasive to me.

    And what the hell is this shooting your car with paintballs? Or EMPing all your electronics? WTF?
    • by Xemu (50595)
      And what the hell is this shooting your car with paintballs? Or EMPing all your electronics?

      It's a joke, that is what it is.
    • by symbolic (11752)
      Actually I wish to HELL they'd use the paintballs and/or EMP to neutralize boomcars. They have no business on public streets. Ever.
  • by arth1 (260657) on Saturday June 16, 2007 @11:10AM (#19532571) Homepage Journal
    There's plenty of legal cell phone use in cars too, even if it's not a passenger doing it.
    • Hands-free systems
    • Systems like OnStar, where you can get a weather report at the touch of a button.
    • GPS systems that automatically download maps for nearby areas
      • ... and probably a lot more.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by tfoss (203340)

      Hands-free systems
      You're right on with the other two, but hands-free systems are just as dangerous as normal cell phones. It might be legal, but that is because of poorly-written laws, not due to any extra safety from using hands-free.

      -Ted

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        I think there are different levels of "phone calls." I know people that have intense conversations while driving, going on and on. It takes a lot of thought for those kind of conversations, even if the subject matter is stupid, and I have no doubt in my mind that such conversations greatly reduce the driver's ability to poor levels. anything that has a lot of back-and-forth, arguing, memorization (grocery list), etc can probably screw you up. In some of the "tests" I've seen, they've tried to structure
        • Personally, I try to limit any phone calls (through my OnStar system) to short/auto-pilot conversations. They rarely get close to the 1 minute mark and require little thought on my end.

          99% of the time I'm talking on my hands-free headset it's to my wife and she's droning on and on about something that I'm not even paying attention to anyway. It might as well be a talk show playing in the background, but to her it's quality time I'm spending engaging in conversation with her even though it's just the occas

      • Yeah, and ditto for Onstar -- that feature only gets exemptions from the cell phone laws because GM is a failing company and legislators want to "take one for the [American industrial] team", and it's pretty much the only thing that GM can hope will keep them alive. That's why they always sex it up as being "the next seatbelt" and use scare tactics in their ads.

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Onstar#Advocacy [wikipedia.org]
      • by pete-classic (75983) <hutnick@gmail.com> on Saturday June 16, 2007 @11:52AM (#19533017) Homepage Journal
        I disagree. Talking on a hands-free system isn't as good as just driving the freakin' car, but it is better than using a handset.

        I ride a motorcycle, and have, therefore, become a keen observer of other people's driving habits. I believe there is a clear hirearcy of cell phone related bad driving.

        1. Email/SMS (Should be punishable by summary execution.)
        2. Dialing (This seems to be far and away the most common cause of really bad driving.)
        3. Talking on a handset. (It seems to create a total lack of awareness of the cell phone side of the vehicle. Not sure why.)
        4. Hands free (Potentially less dangerous than talking with a passenger.)


        You can make various arguments that talking to someone who isn't in the car requires more attention, but I think this is more than offset by the visual distraction of conversing with a passenger.

        There are several other common distractions. Fiddling with the stereo, disciplining children, applying makeup, and eating come to mind. Map reading ranks. I actually saw a guy reading a novel while merging onto the highway about a week ago. Unreal.

        Anyway, I think voice dialing is a HUGE win, and hands free talking has noticeably less negative impact on driving in my experience.

        I would genuinely like to know why you disagree.

        -Peter
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by vertinox (846076)
          I would genuinely like to know why you disagree.

          Well I disagree primarily because it isn't taking care of the root cause of the problem. Which the human.

          No amount of legislation of social engineering can fix the fact that humans are bad drivers.

          The only solution is of something something like this [com.com].
      • by Mr_eX9 (800448)

        Hands-free systems are just as dangerous as normal cell phones.
        So, having both hands on the wheel and/or not having to pin your phone between your ear and your shoulder doesn't count for anything?
    • At least one "system like OnStar" (allegedly not OnStar itself) has been used by an investigative agency to bug an alleged crook's car. (Such systems are, after all, remote-controlled cell speakerphones.)

      In one case the agency bugged a car for a month, until the operators of the system demanded they cease and desist because the monopolization of the channel was imparing their emergency service. (Not to mention that, if the buggee had been involved in an actual emergeny, hitting the button would have made
    • First of all, I'll point out the blindingly obvious. Something can be legal yet still be unsafe.

      In the case of driving, you could quite easily be driving along the road and be in danger, not least of all because you don't drive in isolation: all those other cars and other vehicles around you are only a split-second away from presenting you with a multi-ton hazard that could potentially end your life.

      When you're driving from A to B, your priority should be to get their safely:

      1. without causing a hazard to y
  • by leptonhead (791323) on Saturday June 16, 2007 @11:11AM (#19532575)
    Automatic law enforcement is cheap but it's not the way to go. Make it illegal and slap offenders with a hard punishment to deter people. It works well enough with all other reasonable laws, so why do it differently with this one?
    • by dangitman (862676)

      So, how do you prove that someone was talking ona phone while driving? That's much harder to do than detecting speeding or blood alcohol levels.

      Anyway, what is wrong with "automatic law enforcement"? It works very well with speed cameras - the automatic systems are much more accurate and fair than the manual ones.

      • by metoc (224422)
        I for one pull over when I use my cell phone, and have no problem delegating to my spouse or teenagers if they are riding with me.
        • by Sunburnt (890890) *

          I for one pull over when I use my cell phone, and have no problem delegating to my spouse or teenagers if they are riding with me.

          Same here. It's amazing how many people consider talking on the phone to be as great a necessity as concentrating on the operation of driving.

          And yes, I understand that some people receive urgent phone calls while driving. That's nice, but too small a factor to explain the prevalence of this behavior. I've been in a car with someone who suffers from the following laughable bi

      • by geekoid (135745)
        " It works very well with speed cameras -.."
        No is doesn't. Unless by 'works' you mean generates more revenue.
        Consider:
        Some state ticket the vehical when using cameras, not the person breaking the law.
        In most(if not all) cases the yellow light is shortened to specifically generate more tickets.
        The do not reduce traffic accidents or violators. The only time violations is decreased is during the first few weeks, if people are aware the camera has been installed. All accidents in intersection is caused by someo
        • by dangitman (862676)

          No is doesn't. Unless by 'works' you mean generates more revenue.

          No, I mean that it works. In that, it is very accurately detects speed, and photographs the offending vehicle. Very accurate. None of this "I saw you driving too fast... and by the way you are black" stuff. None of that "I didn't see you speeding, Mr. Mayor" stuff either.

          Some state ticket the vehical when using cameras, not the person breaking the law.

          In that case, you declare who was driving the vehicle at the time, and they go after them instead.

          In most(if not all) cases the yellow light is shortened to specifically generate more tickets.

          Evidence? I heard that happened in some cases, but I believe that was dealt with in court. Where do you get the idea that it happens i

    • Don't worry, they will know who's car and phone are in use. By RFID's they can be reasonably certain it's you, unless someone borrows all of your clothes, ha ha. If that's not enough, the 300 times a day your picture will be taken can trace exactly where you are. So don't worry about getting tickets because your passenger makes a call, worry that you are a cow - numbered, observed, medicated and stripped of all ability to protest and learn anything real about the world around them. Total Information Awa

  • So does this detect the driver speaking on a cell phone or simply someone in the car talking on a cell phone? TFA did not give details. Seems like a big problem if they mistakenly identify a car and a ticket is issued for a passenger using a phone.
    • So does this detect the driver speaking on a cell phone or simply someone in the car talking on a cell phone? TFA did not give details.

      Also: Does it distinguish a phone being rung from one being used for a conversation?
  • Clarify For Me (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Bob9113 (14996) on Saturday June 16, 2007 @11:15AM (#19532609) Homepage
    I support drunk driving laws. And I have heard that cell driving is similar in impairment to drink driving (though I think the studies so far have been less than perfectly rigorous). So that makes me tend to support the idea of cell driving laws.

    However, at the same time, I see plenty of erratic and dangerous drivers who aren't talking on cell phones. Why is a cell driving law a better idea than simply getting tougher on poor driving? Or at least shouldn't getting tougher on poor driving come first?

    It seems like the main (or at least first) question should not be, "Are you on a cell phone?" but, "Do you present a risk to others?"
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      I agree with you completely. I fully believe that there are people out there who can talk on a phone with no change in their driving skills (and also, people who can't drive worth a damn while operating a motor vehicle). The solution isn't to ban cell phones + driving, but to get a little more harsh about BAD driving. Besides, what's the differnce between talking to a passenger while driving a stick-shift and talking on a cell phone?
      • by Detritus (11846)
        Usually, the passenger has the sense to shut up when the driver needs to concentrate on his current situation. Someone on the other end of a cell phone doesn't know what's going on. That said, I find it very distracting to converse with passengers. I prefer that they limit their conversation to essential items. Just shut up and look out the pretty windows.
      • I'd say the difference from an operational standpoint is that driving a stick-shift, your right hand is only on the shifter when you want to change gears, which is typically for brief periods in between long periods of hands on the wheel. Also, taking your hand off the wheel to shift gears is part of the driving task, and so it's easier to integrate it with the rest of the actions involved in driving. Talking on a cell phone without a hands-free setup ties up one of your hands for as long as you're on the p
    • Simple as that.

      If nobody was allowed to drive without being trained and tested to the same safety standards as pilots then you wouldn't have those bad drivers. But anyone who tried to introduce such a law would get instantly voted out of office by the vast numbers of bad drivers who would lose their licences under the new regime.
    • I support drunk driving laws. And I have heard that cell driving is similar in impairment to drink driving (though I think the studies so far have been less than perfectly rigorous). So that makes me tend to support the idea of cell driving laws.

      Yes, but you're ignoring one crucial difference... you can always hang up the phone in the car, but you can't sober up on the way home. So while I also support anti-cell driving laws, I think that it's important not to persecute them the same way as drunk driving,
  • Goes Too Far (Score:4, Insightful)

    by blueZhift (652272) on Saturday June 16, 2007 @11:16AM (#19532621) Homepage Journal
    I don't see a system that shoots paintballs or shuts off cell phones getting too far in the US. This really goes too far and can potentially create more chaos than it is worth. I can almost hear the lawsuits being filed now the first time one of those paintballs causes a wreck, or when a physician talking to a patient has his/her phone disabled rushing to the hospital. Technology is a great thing, but ultimately laws should be enforced via human education and discipline.
  • "The article is fairly light on details, but it would be interesting to see how the system differentiates from a driver talking on a cell phone versus a mere passenger."

    Next time you are in city traffic, look around and note how many people are in a car where a cell phone is being used in a non-hands free manner.
    • by geekoid (135745)
      If I am sitting in traffic, then tlaking on the Cell phone isn't really going to increase my chance of an accident now, is it?

      Besides, the send me a ticket I can say "I was car pooling not driving." or "I was on the bus"

      Automated law enforcement is always flawed.
  • by cenonce (597067) <anthony_t AT mac DOT com> on Saturday June 16, 2007 @11:19AM (#19532667)

    I communte 80 miles roundtrip to my office. I don't like when people are wondering all over the road and then I realize they are talking on their cell phone. But heck, what makes that behavior rise to the level of criminality? Doesn't civil law amply address the issue of irresponsible people who cause accidents when talking on their cell phone (or eating a bag of Doritos, putting on make-up, reading the paper, futzing with the Nav system... whatever...)?

    • by dangitman (862676)

      Doesn't civil law amply address the issue of irresponsible people who cause accidents when talking on their cell phone

      Not really, because those accidents are far too common - and few people are prosecuted because of it. I think the idea is to reduce the accidents in the first place. Civil law after the fact can't bring victims back to life, so it doesn't really address the problem at all.

  • by WalterGR (106787) on Saturday June 16, 2007 @11:19AM (#19532669) Homepage

    Instead of police officers needing to observe a cellphone in use, the system automatically detects a cell phone call and records which car was making the call.

    The system should also automatically detect children in the car, and report those to the police. Or how about radios? That's easy - just report every car. From here [esteybomberger.com]:

    Around 98 percent of reported accidents involve a single distracted driver concentrating not on the road, but rather on one of the following:
    • (snip)
    • Child/Passenger Distraction (9%)
    • Adjusting Radio/CD (7%)
    • Cell Phone (6%)

    (Of course, I understand that radios in cars are far more common than cell phones. Was merely making a point.)

    • by joe 155 (937621)
      Indeed, but maybe you were making a different point to the one you thought. They cite "cell phone (6%) as distinct from "cell phone misuse" which they say "Many [accidents] are due to"
      • by Reziac (43301) *
        So what the heck is "Cell phone misuse" -- throwing it at your obstreperous children??!

  • by geekoid (135745) <`moc.oohay' `ta' `dnaltropnidad'> on Saturday June 16, 2007 @11:22AM (#19532699) Homepage Journal
    No it shouldn't.

    Distracted driving should be a crime. IF the person is observed driving distracted, then ticket them. I don't care why they were distracted, whether it is cell phone use, putting on make up, or getting a blow job.

  • Anyone remember the mythbusters where they tested and determined that driving proficiency was greater when drunk than while talking on a cellphone? Cellphone use while driving should be illegal. Hell, people talking to the driver should be illegal.
    • I propose we not base legislation on Mythbusters. Yes, it's entertaining. No, it's not good science.
  • by e9th (652576) <e9th@NOSpaM.tupodex.com> on Saturday June 16, 2007 @11:24AM (#19532719)
    The company's site explains (in annoying Flash) that the system merely photographs the car. Later, the photos are manually inspected to determine whether it was the driver who was using the phone.
  • by gelfling (6534) on Saturday June 16, 2007 @11:25AM (#19532735) Homepage Journal
    Tell you what, Nanny State, you criminalize the phone. But in exchange I want massive reductions in my car insurance because now everyone is safe and snug.
  • distractions (Score:3, Insightful)

    by grapeape (137008) <{moc.rr.ck} {ta} {7epopm}> on Saturday June 16, 2007 @11:25AM (#19532737) Homepage
    I have no problem as long as their is equal effort in citing drivers for loud music, eating, putting on makeup, shaving, smoking, having their dog run back and forth on the front seat, DVD players active while driving, reading billboards, applying bumper stickers or any other things that drivers do all the time that lead to distraction.

    I work as a consultant, I have to answer my phone or I have no business. I do use a hands free device and its usually very short but based on this logic tuckers shouldn't have cb's and cops shouldn't have their radios. Bad drivers are going to be bad drivers regardless of whether there is a phone involved.

    If there has to be a law, make it one that requires hands free devices that can be cited only when being pulled over for another offense, much like the way most states enforce seatbelt laws. That kind of leads to another question why is wearing a motorcycle helmet considered a personal choice yet wearing a seat belt isn't?

    Dont fool yourself this has nothing to do with protecting people or even getting people to drive more responsibly, its all about revenue.
    • by geekoid (135745)
      Many state wearng a helmet is law.

      I think if you are over 18, then it is up to you to wear a helmet or seat belt.
      You should wear one, it just shouldn't be up to the government to make the decsion.
  • by badc0ffee (969714) on Saturday June 16, 2007 @11:25AM (#19532739) Journal
    I was driving down the freeway with all the other traffic doing about 70MPH when I noticed this blond in the car next to me putting on her makeup in the rear view mirror. She started creeping into my lane, and upset me so much I dropped my cell phone into my coffee, which got my donuts all wet and soggy.

    I go for a bicycle ride every morning and have noticed that in about 1 of 4 cars, the driver is either not looking at the road while dialing, talking or just finishing a call. If I have to cross traffic, I make sure the driver sees and acknowledges my presence. If they are on a cell phone, even at a stop sign, they are either oblivious to my presence or the invisibility cloak is working.

  • Is the technology smart enough to tell the difference between data and voice?
  • ... doesn't mean you should. While I would love to see people obey the law about not talking on the phone (or shaving, or eating a bowl of cereal -- I kid you not, I've seen it on Lake Shore Drive) while driving, what about the first time someone with an open window gets a paintball in the face? Or someone near the car? Or someone walking down the street gets their cell phone jammed?

    No, this is just plain stupid. I (and others here) have been able to come up with really simple reasons why this is a bad idea
    • by Reziac (43301) *
      Or wait til someone reporting an emergency gets jammed, and the subject of the emergency dies because no one was able to report it in a timely manner.

      I smell lawsuits.

  • I suppose this toy is smart enough not to nail you for receiving SMS messages?

    What about Blackberrys? They are quite chatty.

    GMs OnStar system uses cell technology. What about them?

    I would rather see law makers think about what they do and allocate resources to enforce laws, and not expect technic-magically enforcement.
  • HORSESHIT BUZZWORD PARANOID KNEE-JERK FUCKTARD CRAP!

    Goddamn.. how the fuck does this make it to the front page of Slashdot? The article suggests using an EMP gun to disable the offending cell phone? So, it's some kind of perfect EMP that targets ONLY the cell phone and ignores the car's electronic systems - systems REQUIRED for slamming on the brakes... What the fuck?

    And, the system not only can distinguish between drivers and passengers talking on the cell phones... but it can also detect whether drivers a
  • Studies have shown that people who drive and talk are many times more likely to have an accident.

    Great. Now just tell us where these studies are so we can evaluate them, rather than inviting us to give sheep-like acceptance to the idea.

  • "Talking on your cellphone while driving isn't a crime in most states, but it should be."

    No it shouldn't. ANYTHING can distract a driver--the radio, passengers, kids yelling in the car, stupid fucking ads on the side of the road that are getting more and more brazen every day, etc etc etc. Should we just make all of that illegal?

    Drunk driving is illegal for a reason--there's no good reason to drink and drive. There are, however, many good reasons to talk on the phone while driving. I agree that talking on t
  • If I were making the law, I'd make it perfectly legal to drive while on the cell phone, but you would have to have your cell phone number prominently displayed to the front and rear of the vehicle. If you want to talk, great, but be ready for others to call and let you know if you are driving unsafely. And yes, that means they would have to be displaying their number to call you from their car.
  • "Talking on your cellphone while driving isn't a crime in most states, but it should be."

    There are already laws for dangerous driving in EVERY state.
    We don't need more laws.
    It's covered.

    Oh, but you say if you outlaw cellphone driving, people would stop doing it.

    Right, just like drunk driving.

    You, sir, are an asshat.

  • Boston has a on-demand real-time traffic report service called SmarTraveler. [smartraveler.com] Six other cities have it as well, and doubtless there are similar services by other names. In Massachusetts it's subsidized by the Massachusetts Department of Transportation, and, as they say "Dial Star-One on your cellular phone, it's a free call."

    Obviously the authorities think it's a good idea and want you to access it on your cellular phone. You can also access it via the web and of course via landline phones, so if the authori
  • What. The. Fuck. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Palshife (60519) on Saturday June 16, 2007 @12:52PM (#19533523) Homepage
    What does it mean to attach a "paint gun mark" to a car? That sounds vaguely like "shooting a car with a paint gun." That's remarkably unsafe for a device that's supposed to save lives. Can it successfully detect if the user has his window rolled down or his convertible top down? Will it miss pedestrians? Damage the car?

    And what makes them think that an "EMP gun" can properly localize its effect to disable only the cell phone while leaving the vital elecronic components of the car intact? Not to mention that an EMP pulse doesn't temporarily disable the phone, it destroys its circuitry. No more phone. Have they done any studies to see if a badly timed EMP makes the battery catch fire in the users hand?

    And hey, what about the users complying with hands-free laws? They must get their phones fried too, since I'm fairly sure there's no way to distinguish between the two modes of operation aside from, yep, you guessed it, looking at the user.

    This is about 17 terrible, halfway thought out ideas. Either April Fools day came late this year or this is a company that really likes the concept of bankruptcy.
  • Problems (Score:4, Insightful)

    by ls -la (937805) on Saturday June 16, 2007 @12:58PM (#19533591) Journal
    A few problems with this:
    1. I saw nothing about checking whether it was the driver or passenger using the cellphone.
    2. They will get sued out of existence the first time the automatic paintball gun hits a nice new expensive car.
    3. The EMP.
    -- Cars nowadays are highly dependent on their electronic controls. How would the EMP not disable them?
    -- If any electronics besides the cellphone are disabled, that would also lead to a lawsuit the company likely could not win.

    In short, there are too many problems for this to be practical.
  • by DigitalSorceress (156609) on Saturday June 16, 2007 @01:58PM (#19534161)
    WOW, this is so completely bogus it's not even funny. The "Company" site is amateurish at best, paint balls thudding on the car could CAUSE an accident, and EMP would take out not only the phone (permanently), but also the car computer, and all other electronics in a fairly decent radius, causing the car to halt where it is rather abruptly.

    This product is totally bogus and will never happen as stated in this article. That doesn't even cover legal cell phone use with hands-free and /or the possibility that isn't the PASSENGER.

    I Call Shenanigans on this!

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