Aftermarket device takes control of distracted driving

An aftermarket device now available to consumers could put an end to distracted driving.

Liane Yvkoff
Liane Yvkoff is a freelance writer who blogs about cars for CNET Car Tech. E-mail Liane.
Liane Yvkoff
2 min read

An aftermarket device now available to consumers could put an end to distracted driving.

CellControl has released an anti-distracted-driving technology to the consumer market that automatically blocks specified mobile phone features and applications when a paired vehicle is in use. The technology has been used in the U.S. since 1996 mostly by commercial driving fleets that need to track and monitor drivers. Today the Louisiana-based company announced that it has partnered with automotive aftermarket retailer Scosche to sell the device to consumers.

To use the solution, customers download and install CellControl's software onto a driver's phone, and a small device is fitted into a vehicle's onboard diagnostics (OBD) port. The hardware is equipped with a Bluetooth engine that automatically detects and pairs the target smartphone when it's within range, and limits the device's functionality when the vehicle is in use. Functionality is limited based on the rule set by the administrator; typically the vehicle owner or a parent chooses.

Rules can block texting, limit outgoing and incoming calls to a white-list of approved phone numbers, or allow calls only when the phone is paired with a hands-free headset. It's also possible to restrict Internet access, applications, and camera features while the vehicle is in motion. Attempts to override or deactivate the limitations will result in a text or e-mail alert to the administrator to keep the temptation to tinker with the device at bay.

CellControl hardware.
CellControl hardware. CellControl

Of course, no device is perfect. It's easy enough for a teen to turn off Bluetooth connectivity on a phone, and although CellControl works on more than 1,200 mobile devices, iPhone isn't one of them. Android, BlackBerry, Windows Mobile, and Symbian smartphones are compatible with the product, which retails for $129.95, and CellControl works with all U.S. wireless carriers. The manufacturer previously stated that iPhone is on the roadmap, but hasn't given a release date.

Another drawback of the system is that it can't be used with other OBD-enabled devices, such as Progressive Snapshot or AAA In-Drive.

But it's a small trade-off to make to prevent distracted driving. And for parents who are looking for a way to enforce texting-while-driving bans, the device is an easy way to help teens stay on the straight and narrow. Mobile phone carriers offer a similar technology, but it works only on some phones and will activate even when the user is in public transportation or a passenger in another vehicle.