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Young Entrepreneur’s Invention May Prevent Distracted Driving

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SMARTwheel distracted driving prevention device.T.J. Evarts, the 20-year-old CEO and inventor of SMARTwheel, is showcasing his distracted driving prevention device at CES, the consumer technology and electronics trade show in Las Vegas, as Bo Suh reports for Good. Suh calls it a “stylish strap-on device for steering wheels.”

According to the SMARTwheel website, when Evarts pitched his device on the TV reality show Shark Tank in 2012, he was given an offer, however he moved forward without the show’s help. The SMARTwheel has been pilot tested at Massachusetts Institute of Technology and has been endorsed by none other than President Barack Obama and Former U.S. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood.

Preventing Accidents

It was his friends’ risky driving behavior that inspired the young inventor to come up with his idea. The goal of the SMARTwheel is to prevent car accidents before they happen. Evarts said:

When most people think of distracted driving, they think of cell phones. But the problem is bigger than that, especially for teen drivers. I wanted to develop a tool that would actually change how people drive. SMARTwheel provides a simple way to make sure drivers stay focused.

The device snaps onto any steering wheel and is designed to be comfortable for any driver. It has no plugs, cords, or wires. When its patented sensors and linear potentiometers (which are embedded in the steering wheel cover) detect distracted driving behaviors in the driver, the device alerts him or her via sounds and flashing lights.

Recognizing Texting Position

Its proprietary algorithm determines where the driver is placing his or her hands on the wheel and knows when the driver has removed a hand from the wheel. Another way that SMARTwheel knows when a driver is texting is that it recognizes when both hands are placed near the top of the wheel — a grip that allows the driver to have both thumbs free for texting.

SMART wheel works with Bluetooth, sending data to users’ smartphones via an app, which makes it possible for parents of driving-age children to monitor their driving habits. And it delivers teachable insights to smartphones for both young drivers and their parents. If all goes according to plan, the SMARTwheel should be on the market later this year for $199.

In a video (below), Evarts says that SMARTwheel enables gesture recognition:

We’re working towards the day when drivers will be able to control their cars, phones and other electronic devices, through a simple tap or swipe, without them ever having to take their hands off the SMARTwheel or their eyes off the road.

SMARTwheel Apps

SMARTwheel’s open-API makes it possible for other developers everywhere to “dream up” new applications for it. Everett offered the following tip to would-be entrepreneurs in a 2014 LinkedIn article:

Success is simply based on three factors (and none of these are related to experience): the product’s market appeal, founders’ determination and persistence, being in the right place at the right time […] and lots of hard work (I guess that makes four).

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