Cell phones didn’t start out being small enough to fit in a car, let alone in a pocket. That’s why you had car cell phones — basically resembling those old Princess phones from AT&T where you had a cradle with the handset placed inside it.
Of course that is old history today, but the same problem — being distracted — involving the use of a cell phone in a car hasn’t changed since back then. And with laws being enacted by cities and states left and right, the fact that inhibiting the use of a cell phone while the car is in motion isn’t such a terrible idea. At least in theory.
So let’s say you’re a parent concerned about your kid texting while taking the family car out for a spin (how’s that for using an old fashioned cliche?). Sure he’ll promise not to do it. The honor system is good, but sometimes being proactive is better.
So that’s where the Scosche cellcontrol Safe Driving System comes in. It’s a wireless device that’s designed to work in conjunction with the car and the cell phone — the purpose being to decide when and where the phone can be used. Now none of this would be possible if not for the OBD-II socket — this is a special port that can be found on cars since 1996 which allows technicians to run diagnostics. Basically it’s a link between the computer running the car and the outside world. But in this case the cellcontrol Safe Driving System plugs into the port so as to coordinate between the car and the cell phone which, no surprise here, is running a special application (app). Now the app’s purpose is to do one thing without fail: refuse to allow itself to be turned off. In fact it needs to run all the time in the background so that it can activate its functionality when the car is started up. And just as obvious, the app will have been programmed so as to know just what parameters the cell phone is allowed to have when the car is started up and running. What that means in the smartphone “world” is that Apple’s iPhone isn’t going to play since it won’t allow the app to do what it must.
So let’s run thorough the process to see how difficult it is — it ain’t. You’ll start by going to the Scosche website and entering in the code that is on the cellcontrol Safe Driving System as you create an account. No charge for that, so don’t worry.
Once you’ve completed this, it’s time to install the appropriate app — for example on an Android phone or Blackberry — the cellcontrol Safe Driving System works with over 1200 phones on the market. There’s instructions that come with the cellcontrol Safe Driving System and they’re easy enough to follow.
Oh, I should point out that the cellcontrol Safe Driving System requires a button battery to power itself. The battery is included and since all it takes is a simple push/pull to insert or remove the cellcontrol Safe Driving System from inside the car, regularly replacing the battery every 4 months or so shouldn’t be much of a hardship.And that’s with the understanding that the battery might be lasting a lot longer than that.
And yes, anyone CAN remove the cellcontrol Safe Driving System if they know to look for it. But how many even know that the OBD exists in the first place (usually found right under the steering wheel column)? But should that happen (or if it is tampered with), programming it to send a text or email warning can be done beforehand.
I should add that you first register online before downloading the app– each OBD-II module has a serial number on it.
Programming the app doesn’t take a rocket scientist — just follow the obvious steps to decide whether to allow or not things like texting or picture sending or specific apps, etc.
So with that all set up, and the cellcontrol Safe Driving System already installed in the car, I’ll see what happens when I enter the cabin. Sitting in the turned off and unmoving car, I have no trouble making a call or sending a text. But then I start the engine and try repeating those two things. No go. Nada. Exiting the car later, I find the phone is back to snuff (as it were).
Bottom line: Smartphones are a part of daily life, but that doesn’t mean having some control through the Scosche cellControl Smart Driving System is a bad thing. Or an invasion of privacy. In fact it’s good — giving you a bit more control over a family member in an area where potential danger could easily occur.
- Installation does not damage the car
- Operating procedure is straightforward
- OBD-II module easily removed
- Can strain relationships
Marshal Rosenthal is a Los Angeles-based freelance writer and journalist specializing in technology, consumer electronics and pop culture.