Made-in-B.C. app locks smartphones on would-be distracted drivers

Telus is launching a pilot with eBrakes Technologies Inc. to help stop distracted driving 
Telus is launching a pilot with eBrakes Technologies Inc. to help stop distracted driving | Photo: Shutterstock

When developing a smartphone app that could crack down on distracted driving, the same shortcoming kept presenting itself to Troy Spracklin’s team at eBrake Technologies Inc.

“The biggest problem we saw was that most solutions out there that were app-based would simply allow the driver to opt out at any time, at any speed. So it wasn’t actually preventing the driver from distraction,” said the CEO of the Vancouver-based tech firm.

The eBrake app locks up a phone when it detects motion in a vehicle but Spracklin knew there needed to be a better balance so as not to lock out passengers in a car or in mass transit.

So when he took his son to the play in the swings, he noticed how his son kept turning his head around to look at his dad.

“I went, ‘Oh, bingo — the driver can’t turn around,” recalled Spracklin.

The app requires users complete a patented passenger unlock test that involves gestures and multi-touch movements that would prove too difficult for a driver to do on the road.

But Spracklin said the key is making the test practical enough for a passenger to complete inside a moving vehicle.

The solution has since grabbed the attention of Telus Communications (TSX:T), which announced July 12 it would launch a pilot program for select employees and fleet drivers that wished to use the app.

"This pilot program will provide additional insights into this new technology so that it can be introduced to all Canadians, underscoring the dangers of phone use while driving and encouraging others to support the cause to end distracted driving," Andrea Goertz, Telus’ chief communications and sustainability officer, said in a statement.

Spracklin said it’s important that an app like this only be offered as an opt-in solution for drivers that don’t wish to be tempted to even glance at their phones on the road.

“You can’t just impose this and infringe on someone’s civil liberties. This is a driver’s problem but the solution has to be passenger-centric,” he said.

Click here to listen to the full interview with eBrakes Technology Inc. CEO Troy Spracklin on the Business in Vancouver show on Roundhouse 98.3 FM.

torton@biv.com

@reporton

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