Nissan 'Develops' Unnecessary Signal Shield to Eliminate Smartphone Distractions While Driving

Matt Posky
by Matt Posky

Last week, Nissan’s European division proudly announced that it had developed a new feature for use in the Juke that effectively eliminates all cellular signals. In the release, the company praised its UK team for coming up with a 21st century application that uses Victorian-era technology, saying “the beauty of the design is its simplicity.”

Obviously, Nissan is making a play to convince news outlets to cover the prototype and highlight the company’s clever engineering and commitment to safety. While we will happily take the bait and comment on the device, we would be negligent in our duties to consider the item as anything other than an complete waste of resources. The Signal Shield is as useful to motorists as a pair of gloves would be to a person without arms.

Literally a Faraday cage, an invention dating back to the early 1800s, Nissan’s Signal Shield allows drivers to place their cell phone into a center console that eliminates all Bluetooth and Wi-Fi communications when closed. The brand believes its invention will save lives, citing statistics from Britain’s RAC Telematics that show a significant increase of in-car smartphone usage between 2014 and 2016.

“Our research shows that handheld phone use by drivers has reached epidemic proportions,” RAC road safety spokesman Pete Williams said. “As mobile phone technology has advanced significantly many people have become addicted to them. However, the use of a handheld phone when driving represents both a physical and mental distraction and it has been illegal since 2003.”

“The Nissan Signal Shield is a good example of a technology that can help drivers be phone smart. For those who can’t avoid the temptation, this simple but pretty clever tech gives them a valuable mobile-free zone.”

This would make the Signal Shield an invaluable safety feature if we lived in a world where phones could not be shut off. In case you’ve never owned any electronic device in history, the vast majority feature a button or switch that allows you to make them temporarily inoperable. Don’t worry, they can be reactivated again — as if by magic — using the same process.

Another downside is that the shield is only helpful if a driver voluntarily decides to place their smartphone into the specially designed armrest. Of course, it does offer drivers the ability listen to the music stored on their smartphone via USB or auxiliary port. However, in order to change tracks when sourcing from AUX, operators would be required to remove their device from the box — risking a sudden influx of distracting text messages as the phone regains cellular service.

While we’d like to credit Nissan for making the effort here, we just can’t. You can build your own miniature EMF shielding bag for next to nothing, or purchase one online for about ten bucks. But it’s still not an effective deterrent until you place your phone inside and toss the bag into the trunk. Meanwhile, Nissan’s solution has the object resting less than a foot away from your arm at all times. The entire concept is on par with someone securing a handgun under a couch and relying on their children’s good intentions not to play with it. Phone addicted drivers aren’t going to be defeated by a wallet-sized Faraday cage that’s less effective than simply turning the device off or placing it in airplane mode.

[Image: Nissan]

Matt Posky
Matt Posky

A staunch consumer advocate tracking industry trends and regulation. Before joining TTAC, Matt spent a decade working for marketing and research firms based in NYC. Clients included several of the world’s largest automakers, global tire brands, and aftermarket part suppliers. Dissatisfied with the corporate world and resentful of having to wear suits everyday, he pivoted to writing about cars. Since then, that man has become an ardent supporter of the right-to-repair movement, been interviewed on the auto industry by national radio broadcasts, driven more rental cars than anyone ever should, participated in amateur rallying events, and received the requisite minimum training as sanctioned by the SCCA. Handy with a wrench, Matt grew up surrounded by Detroit auto workers and managed to get a pizza delivery job before he was legally eligible. He later found himself driving box trucks through Manhattan, guaranteeing future sympathy for actual truckers. He continues to conduct research pertaining to the automotive sector as an independent contractor and has since moved back to his native Michigan, closer to where the cars are born. A contrarian, Matt claims to prefer understeer — stating that front and all-wheel drive vehicles cater best to his driving style.

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  • Fred Fred on May 10, 2017

    How will I get maps to work or use bluetooth? Android Auto or Apple Play? Besides are we so weak that we can't ignore a few beeps now and then. Yea I know the answer to that last one, but really don't let these machines control you.

  • George B George B on May 10, 2017

    A shielded armrest is inferior to a conventional one. As arach wrote, putting the phone in a shielded box will cause it to use extra battery power while it looks for a cellular signal. It will also take about a minute to register and connect to the cellular network when you take it out of the shielded box. In contrast, putting the phone inside a normal unshielded console would remove most of the distraction without the loss of battery life and inconvenience from registration and connection delay. A far superior solution would be a car-to-phone user interface that combines hands-free voice calls, phone-based GPS navigation with a big easy to read display on the dash, good voice recognition, controls on the steering wheel and dash with tactile feedback, and reasonably smart filtering of distractions based on driving conditions. For example, the phone shouldn't add distractions any time the turn signal indicator is on, delaying notifications until after the turn or lane change has been completed.

  • Wjtinfwb Funny. When EV's were bursting onto the scene; Tesla's, Volt's, Leaf's pure EV was all the rage and Hybrids were derided because they still used a gas engine to make them, ahem; usable. Even Volt's were later derided when it was revealed that the Volt's gas engine was actually connected to the wheels, not just a generator. Now, Hybrids are warmly welcomed into the Electric fraternity by virtue of being "electrified". If a change in definition is what it takes, I'm all for it. Hybrid's make so much sense in most American's usage patterns and if needed you can drive one cross-country essentially non-stop. Glad to see Hybrid's getting the love.
  • 3-On-The-Tree We also had a 1973 IH Scout that we rebuilt the engine in and it had dual glass packs, real loud. I miss those days.
  • 3-On-The-Tree Jeff thanks. Back in 1990 we had a 1964 Dodge D100 with a slant six with a 3 on the tree. I taught myself how to drive a standard in that truck. It was my one of many journeys into Mopar land. Had a 1973 Plymouth duster with a slant six and a 1974 Dodge Dart Custom with 318 V8. Great cars and easy to work on.
  • Akear What is GM good at?You led Mary............................................What a disgrace!
  • Randy in rocklin I have a 87 bot new with 200k miles and 3 head gasket jobs and bot another 87 turbo 5 speed with 70k miles and new head gaskets. They cost around 4k to do these days.