How This Smart Steering Wheel Can Save Lives

The dangers of texting while driving have been proven time and again, and finally a new invention is hoping to help make the road a safer place. SMARTwheel is the first smart steering wheel that keeps your hands at 10 and 2 and the driver's attention on the road. It was created as an intelligent wheel cover that with the help of sensing technology and the ability to emit lights and tones, will combat distracted driving, especially among teens. SMARTwheel, which was developed by teens for teens, has garnered a lot of attention this week at the 2016 Consumer Electronics Show (CES).

It seems adults and teens alike use their cellphone in the car, but according to the DMV, it's one of the riskiest distracted driving activities. Texting clocks in at the longest "eyes off the road" time, and has even surpassing drunk driving to become the number one cause of death among teenagers in the United States. Sending a text while behind the wheel will make you 23 times more likely to get in an accident. SMARTwheel after years in the making, has finalized commercial prototype that will be available for sale later this year for $199. It was first seen at the 2010 White House Science Fair, and then later featured on ABC's Shark Tank in 2012. Though the prototype garnered offers from the investors, following the show, the team decided to create SMARTwheel™ alone with inventor TJ Evarts, now 20 years old, as Founder and CEO.

While there are apps available to tackle teen texting and driving, most of them approach it by disabling the phone. ParentBlocked or TXTShield essentially freeze the texting function of smart phones. But SMARTwheel's unique approach goes to the source — monitoring the car and the driving in real time. How does this unique device work? The all-leather wheel cover snaps on to any steering wheel and uses patented linear potentiometers and an algorithm to determine if a driver's hands are placed at the correct positions.

If one hand is removed or the hands are in a dangerous position (like "adjacent hands" where both are close together at the top of the wheel), a light at the top of the wheel changes and a beeping sound will warn the driver. Once hands are returned to a safe position the light turns back to green and the noise ceases. Bluetooth enabled connectivity can monitor the driver's performance, and send the information via smart phone app. This allows parents and drivers to track improvement through a simple letter safety grade system. The cover can also monitor if it is removed or tampered with, and alert parents.

The next step for SMARTwheel is to use gesture recognition to expand drivers' eyes-free options. Soon, TJ Evarts says, they hope to produce a product that allows the driver to control aspects of their vehicle and answer phones with simple swipes or taps on the steering wheel. Hopefully, this product will save lives, and help people of all ages become safer, better drivers.

To learn more about SMARTwheel and see it in action, check out the video below:

Images: SMARTwheelusa, YouTube, Indiegogo