WASHINGTON » Alarmed by the rising number of crashes caused by distracted drivers, a professor at Florida Atlantic University has invented a software program that can block a driver from sending or receiving text messages from behind the wheel of a moving vehicle.
The invention by Daniel Raviv was promising enough to prompt Florida Atlantic University to patent the program and to spur PortNexus, a technology firm in Dania Beach, Fla., to begin implementing it.
"It blocks the driver only and allows passengers to continue to text," said Raviv, a professor of electrical engineering and computer science.
"If we save one person’s life, this is worth it, most definitely."
After seeing distracted drivers wavering down the crowded roads of South Florida, Raviv decided to do something about it.
"They are either drunk or texting," he said. "It’s driving blindfolded. When you text, it’s like closing your eyes for a few seconds. It can cause a lot of damage."
His software program, being developed by PortNexus, is designed to prevent mobile devices from downloading text messages when held by drivers moving faster than a specified speed, say 10 mph.
When fully developed, it would allow a mobile network carrier to distinguish the driver from passengers in a vehicle by tracking clusters of devices moving at the same speed and picking the one in the front left corner, where the steering wheel is bound to be.
PortNexus is using this technology to create products for businesses with drivers and for families that take a pledge to stop texting while driving to ensure safety and avoid liability. A version available for sale in about two months can be installed on smartphones, coupled with a sensor placed on the windshield.
But Raviv and PortNexus say the software program eventually could be used by cellphone carriers to routinely block texting while driving, either as a legal requirement or as an option for consumers who get a break on insurance premiums.
"Once we are able to implement Dr. Raviv’s patents, it will become standard," said PortNexus chief executive Steve Jones. "Nothing will be added to your phone, it will just be there. Like all technology, as it becomes real, it becomes invisible."