BOULDER, COLO. - In order to drive without distractions, Scott Tibbitts created something to take the distractions out of driving.
"We started down the path of this is easy, just jam the phone," Tibbitts said. "Well, that's illegal because you can't use 911. There's a variety of reasons it's illegal."
Instead, his Boulder-based company, Katasi, created Groove. It's a small device that plugs directly into the car using a port that mechanics use to perform diagnostics. Groove works like a small cell phone, connecting the car's computer to the network to let mobile phone companies know when a customer is behind the wheel.
"So, if this car started moving at 10:27 and one of the three phones (in a family) started moving at 10:27, we know that that person is the one that's in the car," Tibbitts said.
Then, through pre-selected choices, the phone network can shut off phone calls, text messages, or social media to make sure drivers are not distracted. If there is more than one phone in the car, then the passenger would have to indicate that he or she is not driving before all service is restored by the mobile carrier.
Tibbitts says the drivers cannot fool the system, unlike apps which can be turned off or deleted.
"Well, if you pull the device out, it immediately sends a message that you pulled the device out and we can turn off texting," Tibbitts said.
Texting or other services can be automatically shut off if the device is removed, according to Tibbitts. Plus, an email can be sent to parents, for example, notifying them if a teenage driver has removed the device.
"Nowhere in the world is anybody doing this," Tibbitts said.
He says the key to this effort was teaming up with a national carrier called Ready Mobile.
"We have about 350-400-thousand subscribers nationwide," Dennis Henderson, Ready Mobile CEO. said. "It's all about changing behaviors for real lasting change to take place and the best way to do that is to not have the distraction get into the vehicle in the first place."
Groove alerts the mobile network to shut off service once the car starts moving fives miles per hour or faster.
Service is restricted until the driver stops and turns the engine off. Tibbitts and Henderson say the key is to work with all mobile carriers not just Ready Mobile to keep everyone safe.
"We really hope that carriers around the world will follow suit," Henderson said.
Right now, only Ready Mobile customers can use Groove. It costs $100 up front and another $10 per month to keep a car distraction free. Tibbitts says this device can save countless lives and curb a growing problem of distracted driving.
"I am sick of this and we are sick of this. We got to do something," Tibbitts said.
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