Nissan’s popular Juke crossover has a new feature in development that will help to curb distracted driving; an armrest-integrated signal shield that distraction-prone drivers can place their phones into while on the road. On the surface, it’s the normal middle console cubby that you would see on most vehicles, but the inside is a signal-proof faraday cage that cuts your phone off from Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, and cellular signal. Placing a phone inside and closing the lid will completely kill the signal, while opening the lid will bring back connectivity. The feature is currently in the prototype stage. Nissan did not announce exactly when they expect to have it ready for primetime, whether it will be standard on the 2018 Juke, or what model years of the Juke family will be able to equip it when it comes out.
The accessory may help to battle distracted driving, but a few clear negatives are present in the very concept of such a device. For starters, the same could be achieved by simply turning a phone off, or putting it in Do Not Disturb mode, then putting it somewhere out of the driver’s sight. The accessory would also, for most use cases, have to be willingly used by drivers who are essentially admitting that they have a serious distraction issue. Since connectivity is restored upon opening the lid, a distraction-prone driver could simply do so and use their phone behind the wheel as normal. Lastly, since it blocks Bluetooth and Wi-Fi as well as cellular connectivity, putting a phone in the accessory would mean that you could not hook it into the car’s infotainment system for things like phone calls and music streaming.
Despite all of the possible negatives of the proposed accessory, distracted driving is statistically on the rise, and just about any move to help curb it is welcome at this point. Carriers are warning of the dangers of texting and driving as often as they can, police worldwide are cracking down, device makers are being urged to step in, and people have even caused accidents doing things like playing Pokemon GO behind the wheel. While things like the proposed signal shield may be helpful, improved automation and advancements in voice assistant systems like Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa are fast becoming a viable compromise, allowing drivers to live their digital lives without having to take their eyes off the road. Still, there are studies showing that just about any mobile use behind the wheel is dangerously distracting, so the best approach to dealing with the increasing encroachment of the digital world upon the day to day of the driving populace is still largely up for debate.