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Student-designed SMARTwheel aims to make driving safer


March 8, 2013

The Inventioneers present the first working prototype of the SMARTwheel to Secretary of Transportation Ray Lahood

The Inventioneers present the first working prototype of the SMARTwheel to Secretary of Transportation Ray Lahood

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Driving safely requires that both hands remain firmly on the steering wheel, but some people find the temptation to use their smartphone at the wheel all too enticing, often resulting in road accidents. To combat this, a group of students has come up with SMARTwheel: an aftermarket steering wheel cover that detects when drivers are engaging in unsafe activities like texting while driving, and provides sonic and visual alerts to refocus their attention.

Deriving the first part of its name from the acronym "Safe Motorist Alert for Reducing Texting, Tweeting, Typing, Touchscreens, Takeout and Touch-up," SMARTwheel was designed by students aged between 12 and 18 from Londonderry, New Hampshire. The team is collectively known as “The Inventioneers,” and has been working together since 2004. SMARTwheel is the third invention produced by the group thus far.

Like the Tiwi, SMARTwheel is primarily focused toward teenage and inexperienced drivers. The device fits onto a standard steering wheel and sounds an alert while simultaneously flashing red lights if a driver is deemed to be holding the steering wheel in an unsafe manner – hopefully refocusing their attention as a result. A digital log of when the incident occurs is then produced, and can be later accessed by parents, employers, or law enforcement.

Gizmag caught up with a few members of the Inventioneers team, and had a chat about the design of the SMARTwheel and future plans for the product. The team explained that the device makes use of embedded sensors to determine when drivers have removed one or both hands from the wheel for too long, or if the person is texting while driving.

At present, the digital log is accessed via wired connection to a computer, though plans are in the works to offer a version which sends out the data in real time – perhaps with a Bluetooth tether to a smartphone.

Other plans for SMARTwheel include an accessory which fits onto a stick shift, and the team is also looking to expand the technology into the areas of mass-transit and commercial driving. The Inventioneers members further expressed a desire to work with insurance companies, who could offset the cost of a professional installation of the SMARTwheel (though DIY installation is also possible).

The Inventioneers recently received an audience with President Obama, who declared his admiration for the project, and the team is currently planning to manufacture the SMARTwheel, with a proposed eventual retail price of US$200.

While a release date is still unconfirmed at this early stage, a late 2013 schedule is hopeful.

Source: SMARTwheel USA via Shark Tank

About the Author
Adam Williams Adam scours the globe from his home in North Wales in order to bring the best of innovative architecture and sustainable design to the pages of Gizmag. Most of his spare time is spent dabbling in music, tinkering with old Macintosh computers and trying to keep his even older VW bus on the road. All articles by Adam Williams

"Driving safely requires that both hands remain firmly on the steering wheel..." Really? Got any data to back that up -- other than your "gut feeling" I mean. Driving, esp. highway driving, just isn't that hard.

I can see the salesman's pitch now: "for just $200, we can annoy you AND provide evidence against you!"


These guys got chewed up on shart tank

Ricky Livingston

To (piperTom) you better come up for air more often, and it is also quite obvious that you use your cell phone while driving. If you want to save your own life and most likely others on the road do a simple web search and you will find many stated facts about this issue. The issue of cell phone use and worse texting while driving has caused way to many deaths and needs to be stopped ASAP, but well as this sounds good, i still feel it is better for all concerned to do a much easier thing that is already built into all phone today, use the GPS sensor already in the phone a stop all use of the phone until you stop moving!

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