The NoCell goal: end distracted driving by automatically turning off the phone

A cell phone today can be seen as a person’s most valuable and necessary asset, especially on the road. A two-year-old company called NoCell is rolling out a product that stops much of its use when it’s in the cab of a truck.

The California start-up had a booth at the recently concluded Truckload Carriers Association annual meeting where it talked about its product, a round cylinder about an inch thick and a few inches in diameter. which has a formidable power: the ability to tell a driver that he cannot use certain applications.

Corey Woinarowicz, director of business development at NoCell – a company whose name describes pretty much what its product does – displayed one of the company’s devices at its TCA booth. There isn’t much to show on a booth; the device must be connected to a moving truck to do its job.

But when performing well, or as Woinarowicz described it, when “in politics”, it performs a function that, intuitively, should help improve truck safety while potentially elevating the annoyances of a truck. population of drivers who have long been concerned about privacy in the cab: it shuts down all applications, except necessary, on a telephone.

As Woinarowicz described the functions of the NoCell system, the device is plugged into the phone and a connection in the vehicle. When this happens, the tool allows what it called a “whitelist” of applications to continue to function. The list of applications on this whitelist would be submitted by the fleet to NoCell. Anything not on this whitelist stops when NoCell is running.

Thus, a broker’s app would be allowed to continue operating. The necessary personal applications would also be allowed to continue to function; Woinarowicz gave the example of a diabetic driver who needed the services of an app that monitors insulin levels.

Everything else would be cut off once the vehicle hit three miles per hour, Woinarowicz said. “Unauthorized apps are physically removed from the phone,” he said in an interview with the TCA. He then clarified that to say that the prohibited applications remain on the phone, “but there is no access to them while the vehicle is in motion.” If a driver doesn’t fire it up and ride without it, the lack of a record of their use can be compared to an ELD’s driving record to definitively show whether NoCell was not used in violation of the policy.

If a phone is disconnected while the truck is in motion, NoCell’s monitoring system will “drop a pin” on a map so the company “knows exactly where it picked up the phone,” Woinarowicz said. When a truck stops anywhere, the system will allow all applications on the phone to be restored after a period of time chosen by each user in the company. Data that would have flown to the phone during the shutdown is allowed to refill the phone and nothing is lost, Woinarowicz added.

Woinarowicz said NoCell does not have a policy on what can and cannot be on the phone. “We give the customer the opportunity to apply their policy,” he said. But he said voice calls can only be made through voice activation and Bluetooth.

The initial impetus for NoCell came from an individual Woinarowicz declined to identify except to say he was the full source of support for the company. His motivation for investing his money in NoCell, Woinarowicz said, was a horrific incident in California that involved the deaths of teenagers in a car crash that could ultimately be linked to distracted driving from cell use.

Getting the NoCell product into private vehicles does not involve the same problems as getting into a truck cab. A parent telling a teenager that they must use the NoCell product or that there will be hell to pay can be easily ignored. Woinarowicz therefore said the plan would be for commercial auto insurers to offer reduced insurance premiums for registered use of NoCell, as a digital record of its app is generated by its use.

A fleet has the advantage of being able to enforce the use of NoCell, in the same way that it can now enforce the use of in-cabin and external cameras for safety monitoring and training. While it may be mandatory, it doesn’t mean drivers have to like it. But Woinarowicz said he was pleasantly surprised by the reaction from the riders who have used it so far.

“We have interviewed a lot of drivers and what they say is first ‘I thought of this as an invasion of my privacy’,” he said. “But after five to seven days of not having all the buzzes and beeps and tones of all the social media, it takes the stress out.”

Woinarowicz has identified two commercial users of the NoCell product. One is a Southern California elevator company, McKinley Elevator, which was one of the company’s early beta testers. Woinarowicz said the company has around 70 vehicles using NoCell.

The other is the road carrier Stevens Transport. Cole Stevens, vice president of sales at his namesake company, said NoCell is currently not fully deployed in the company.

Right now, he said in a phone interview with FreightWaves, it is being used as a “rebuke” when Steven’s on-board camera technology has detected improper cell phone use while driving. “We used it as a training tool and put it on the truck if there was an incident,” he said. “So the deployment has been slow. “

Although Stevens Transport’s use of NoCell was limited, Stevens described it as “super successful”. But a full deployment has been careful, he added, because “the pilots are tight and we don’t want to tip the boat all the way.”

For those who have NoCell installed, they are “very receptive and understand where we are coming from in terms of safety, behavior and assurance.”

Stevens also praised another aspect of NoCell: it can detect the presence of a second phone in the cabin. So a driver who plugs in a primary phone but then keeps a second phone handy with all of the normal apps won’t be able to activate that phone, Stevens said. The NoCell technology also closes this one.

Although the total number of commercial users with NoCell was not disclosed by Woinarowicz, he said the company’s goal is to have 200,000 commercial drivers using it by the end of 2023.

Installing NoCell’s first unit costs $ 148 per vehicle per year, Woinarowicz said. Fees beyond that are $ 108 per year, with the first year fee being higher as it involves hardware installation.

Woinowicz described NoCell as “the cheapest policy they can have,” producing a data set that can prove to an insurance company that an operator’s policy on cellphones actually works and is in place.

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