This young entrepreneur’s invention could put an end to the texting-and-driving epidemic.
T.J. Evarts may not be a household name, but his product may become one. The 20-year-old CEO of SMARTwheel has invented a stylish, strap-on device for steering wheels that prevents distracted driving. He’s showcasing his invention at CES, a consumer technology and electronics trade show in Las Vegas.
Evarts first came up with his design over a year ago after noticing his friends’ risky driving habits. While the rate of drunk driving is, fortunately, declining, it is being replaced by a scary increase in the number of deaths caused by distracted driving. According to a 2010 Pew study, 40 percent of all American teens say they have been in a car while the driver was using their phone. But SMARTwheel is not limited to preventing texting and driving.
“When most people think of distracted driving, they think of cell phones,” Evarts said, according to PR Newswire. “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.”
SMARTwheel works through a sensor technology that detects when a driver has removed one of their hands from the wheel. At the center of the device is a round green light, which flashes and buzzes when it senses a hand has left the wheel. This discourages a variety of distractions, such as typing an address into a GPS or fiddling with the radio while driving. However, SMARTwheel does pay special attention to the dangers of texting and driving by also detecting when both hands are close to the top of the wheel, a grip which allows drivers to text with both thumbs.
The technology doesn’t stop there. Similar to other apps, SMARTwheel works via Bluetooth and sends data back to users’ smartphones through an app, which allows parents to monitor their kids’ driving habits. What makes the SMARTwheel unique is that its goal is to prevent accidents before they happen.
This is not the first time Evarts has displayed his invention. He also exhibited the SMARTwheel at CES in 2015 and was featured on ABC’s Shark Tank, a reality show that gives entrepreneurs the chance to compete for investor money. But with the newfound attention, Evarts hopes the SMARTwheel will be used in more cars and save thousands of lives. The device will be on sale later this year for $199.