Times Have Changed

Times Have Changed

Four years ago, we would be in a conference room discussing network-level distracted driving with Telco exec’s, insurance company execs, or technology partners, when about 15 minutes into the meeting some 50ish-year-old exec would say “The Gen-Zs and Millenials can’t control themselves. They need this technology.” And those around the table would nod. 

That ship has sailed. 

Four years later, in similar conversations with similar groups, about 15 minutes in – and after a long pause – some 50ish-year-old exec will say, “I would buy this technology. I can’t help myself, and I’m going to hurt someone.” And those around the table nod. 

The reasons are the same.  “I have the self-control to be safe.” Then the phone chimes, and there is an immediate reaction of “what am I missing?” – closely followed by, “I’ll just take a quick look. I’ll be careful. Just sending this one text isn’t dangerous.”

As a kind of anecdotal research, we started asking our FedEx and UPS drivers how bad distracted driving is and who are typically the worst offenders, as they are constantly able to see other drivers in their cars due to how elevated their truck seats are. The answers are consistent: distracted driving is out of control. What’s worse is that people know that the issue is not teens but the adults, the commuters, the moms and the dads.

Turn if off or put it in the glove compartment. Or use a network-level distracted driving prevention technology that eliminates the temptation of  “Just this one won’t hurt anyone.”  

Why can’t I talk?

Why can’t I talk?

All agree that looking at your screen for a few seconds to message, Snap-chat, or find that playlist on Spotify, takes your eyes from the road and can kill.  We’ve all heard the “imagine driving the distance of a football field with your eyes closed” argument. It is cliche. It is true.

However, we hear mixed messages about hands-free phone use while driving; “My eyes are on the road, so I’m not distracted” or “It’s no different than talking to a passenger”.  

Are they both distracting?

Yes, but for very different reasons.

When someone texts while they drive, they’ve convinced themselves they are aware enough of their driving surroundings to safely take a peek at their phone: “I’m under control… I can look down for just a couple of seconds.”  A sometime fatal self-deception.  

Highway Patrol officers talk of the two tells of a distracted driving accident: a driver rear-ending slowed traffic or a driver drifting off the road into the shoulder or oncoming traffic. The misconception that a couple of seconds can’t hurt can be fatally optimistic.  

But what about hands-free talking with both hands on the wheel, with the drivers eyes on the road, aware of the driving surroundings? 

A conversation while driving is not distracting in itself as long as our brains are not overly tasked. Our cerebellum – the part of the brain that processes subconscious tasks such as walking and riding a bike – handles the driving.  You are aware of your surroundings, ready to take your brain off autopilot as soon as something unexpected occurs. 

This means the cerebrum – the part of brain that we use for problem solving and conscious thought – is free to daydream, talk to your daughter, sing along with the radio.  If a piece of trash falls off a truck, the cerebrum kicks in, takes the controls from the cerebellum autopilot, and you swerve around the object. Once the adrenaline wears off, the cerebrum and cerebellum go back to their respective tasks, “I’ll drive, you relax”.

A conversation with a passenger is relatively safe, as there is a social contract in play that calls for the passenger to immediately stop talking and allow the driver to focus if something gets sporty.  The driver also provides cues, as simple as “Hold on for a sec…”.  In addition, the passenger is often a co-pilot,  aware of surroundings and possibly seeing a threat before the driver. This social contract ensures an immediate and timely switch to the cerebrum working the problem.

The opposite happens when a driver is on their phone. A phone conversation highly tasks the cerebrum.  We are trying to communicate without the benefit of other cues, so our brains are working overtime, to pick up on and generate verbal cues in the absence of visual cues.  

When something unexpected happens, such as a four-lane road squeezing down to two because of construction, the cerebrum tries to engage, but it is already fully tasked by the conversation. And then the social contract kicks in, preventing us from a quick shift in attention. We find ourselves trying to say “could you hold on a minute”, or “I’ve got to go”, with our cerebellum focused on managing a conversation in a socially appropriate way, while at the same time trying to make complicated decisions about navigating.  The cerebellum is thrown into task overload. The equivalent of a naval aviator getting one too many problems to work as they are landing on a carrier. The social contract now becomes an enemy, keeping us in task overload, and we lose the ability to navigate the unexpected. If you need convincing,  try to find your way to a location in an unfamiliar city while having an  engaged conversation on your phone.  

In simple terms, distractions that take your eyes off the road create a dangerous situation. Distractions due to being on a phone prevent you from dealing with an unexpected, dangerous situation. 

There is not a simple practical solution for those that insist on talking on the phone while driving. While I believe that we will prevail with technologies that prevent distractions that take our eyes off the road, phone conversations while we drive are not going away. That ship has sailed. 

So what does that leave us with for those that insist on talking while driving?

Two suggestions:

Become aware of the nature of phone distractions. When you sense you are getting into a situation that will take full attention, end your call immediately.

And in a situation in which your full attention is immediately demanded, throw the social contract out the window. Say one word – “Pause!” – and let your cerebellum focus on the drive.  It may be perceived as rude until it becomes a part of our lexicon, but the alternative might be a conversation ending in the sound of a crash.  

Katasi Reaches Milestone with Groove

Katasi Reaches Milestone with Groove

We are super-pleased to announce that early this week we achieved an extraordinary milestone: 300,000 miles driven by drivers protected against mobile phone distractions with Groove!

The above was accomplished with our anchor technology partners, Geotab (www.geotab.com) and Mobile Iron (www.mobileiron.com), and – most importantly – our anchor deployment partner (a top ten US trucking company).

As of last week, we are now deployed to 6 cities, protecting more than 1,000 drives per day. We expect that to climb to 10,000 drives per day in the coming months.

MANY thanks to the A team: the Katasi development team that heroically worked to bring Groove to commercial fidelity in record time despite all of us being in the midst of COVID.

Stay tuned for news of our Cape Town, South Africa deployment….

Should everyone have Groove?

Should everyone have Groove?

When we are asked about our company and product by parents, it takes only a few minutes for them to fully comprehend that Groove is simply a way to notify your mobile phone carrier when a family member is driving so that the carrier can limit distractions at the network level during a drive.

At that point, there is usually an “aha” moment which is often followed by a “Everyone should be using this!” statement.

Of course we agree, and so have others that are committed to having an effective solution available to all mobile phone subscribers. To that point, in the past couple years we’ve been contacted by representatives of state legislatures in New York, Colorado, and California asking how they can help make this technology available to their constituents.

As a result of this prompting, last year we engaged with legislators to develop a bill for the Colorado legislature that was hard to argue against: that every carrier should make available network-level distracted driving prevention technologies to their customers who want the service and are willing to pay a fair price for it. The intention of the bill was not to mandate that drivers must use this technology, but simply that it should be made available to any subscriber that wants it, similar to the 1960s when seat-belts were first coming to be. Legislation ensured that automakers made seat-belts available as an option to those customers who wanted them.

As Katasi is primarily a team of entrepreneurs and technologists, it was an eye-opening experience to see the legislative process from the inside as the bill was developed and forwarded. It quickly gained momentum with advocates such as the Automobile Association of America, Sentry Insurance, National Insurance, Candace Lightner (the founder of Mothers Against Drunk Driving) and the We Save Lives and Colorado Drive Safe coalitions joining us in the campaign.

We put substantial work into structuring the bill NOT to mandate the technology for drivers, but simply to make sure it was available to subscribers, allowing that market forces could drive the development of network-level distracted driving prevention technologies.

After writing the bill in partnership with the legislators, it was introduced to the legislature by our sponsor and cosponsor. The legislative process is such that a bill is first introduced to a House committee for discussion and vote to determine if it should be brought to the House for discussion and vote. If the committee votes to forward to the House, the House discusses and votes. If the bill passes the House, then it is brought to the Senate committee for discussion and vote. If that passes, then it is brought to the Senate floor for discussion and vote. Finally, if that passes, then the bill becomes law.

We came very close to having the bill become law on our first try!

In February the process began in earnest. We were successful in the House committee, with votes mostly along party lines (Democrats for, Republicans against), with some Republicans voting “for”. We were then successful with passage on the House floor, again, with the vote in general along party lines, but with some Republicans voting “for”.

When we reached the Senate committee, we came close to prevailing, with a close vote along party lines, missing approval by one vote. The Senate did not get an opportunity to vote on the bill.

Although we were not successful this year in passing the bill, the level of advocacy that developed was astonishing, with multiple organizations committing to help make network-level distracted driving prevention technology available to any mobile phone subscriber, agreeing that voluntary app-based solutions fall far short of the sure, effective solution that a network-level solution can provide.

With it likely that Colorado will have both a democratic House and Senate next session, we are looking forward to building on the lessons learned from the experience, re-introduce a similar bill next year, succeed in it becoming law, and taking an important step to make sure that everyone has access to this important technology.

Time Management Lesson From a Rattlesnake

Time Management Lesson From a Rattlesnake

I always wondered if I would recognize the sound. I dreaded hearing it, but I was even more afraid of what would happen if I didn’t hear it. But that sound? It’s unmistakable. And when I finally did hear it that day last summer, I knew it immediately: that distinct buzzing that made my heart rush to my throat and drenched my underarms with the sweat of fear.


Before that day, I used to multitask–checking email or returning calls or texts–while my dogs, Dash and Moxie, ran unleashed on the trail. Exercising the dogs and taking care of business = “time management.” At least that’s what I called it.

But I had unintentionally left my phone at home that afternoon, and didn’t realize it until we parked at the entrance to the trail. I set off on our walk feeling uneasy, with a nagging sense of anxiety at being disconnected for what would be at least an hour. Too long to spend in nature in a world of unnatural non-stop connectivity.

Yet it was summer in spectacular Boulder, Colorado–a destination for thousands of visitors each year who come to appreciate the natural and cultural resources of the area–so I forced myself to play tourist and take in the wildflowers, the chirping prairie dogs, the sweeping backdrop of the foothills, dusty under the haze of smoke from wildfires two states away.

Within five minutes, embedding into the beauty and wildness of it, losing any sense of a jaded Boulderite, I surrendered to taking in all that the Boulder mountain parks were. After 30 minutes, we turned around to head back, more than a mile from the trailhead. With Dash at my heel and Moxie only 10 feet ahead, I had fallen into the cadence of our foot- and pawsteps on the dirt path when Moxie made a sudden stop: ears forward, tail horizontal.

I heard it.
I saw it.
I called her.
She came.

It all happened just like it should. The rattler, coiled on the edge of the dirt–mostly hidden in the tall grass–did its job by warning Moxie, I did mine by being attentive and aware, and Moxie did hers by coming to me when I called her.

I leashed both dogs, hands greased with sweat and my heart pounding at least as loudly as the rattlesnake’s warning, imagining the alternative outcomes. Had I been updating my Facebook status or returning a text to my mother in that critical moment–had the snake’s telltale warning been lost to my internet oblivion–the story could have had a wildly different ending. I was profoundly thankful that I had seen and heard what I did, when I did.

I mouthed a silent “thank you” in the direction of the still-coiled-but-now-silent snake as we found our way to safety via an extra-long detour through the grass on the other side of the trail.

The “cost” of being disconnected for that short hour and finally seeing what I might have missed…

Join us. Be a part of the Groovement.

Message from Scott Tibbitts, CEO and Founder, Katasi

“Where are you traveling?” “What do you do?”
Invariably, on a long flight or at a social dinner with people I have just met, I hear these questions. Being a storyteller at heart, and prone to long discourse, I have learned to be succinct:
“Our company invented a device called Groove that stops texting while driving. Groove is a small box you plug into your car. Within seconds of starting a drive, Groove determines who the driver is and alerts your mobile phone provider, that you, or your son, or spouse is driving so that the carrier can stop dangerous distractions before they get to the driver’s phone. Senders of blocked messages receive a text saying that their message will be forwarded when the drive is over. Within seconds of ending the drive, full phone function is restored. We are working diligently with Verizon, T-Mobile and Sprint to make it available to their subscribers.”
Looks of astonishment cross their faces, and then the questions come in a rush:
“I need that—right now! I have a son who’s 15 and about to drive, and I’m frightened silly! Where can I get it?”
“I would buy that for me! I’m going to have an crash some day…I can’t help myself.”
“That’s brilliant! The mobile phone providers must be falling over themselves to be the first to make it available!”
I often ask these folks what they would be willing to pay monthly for Groove: $2? $5? $10? $25?
The response is usually north of $10. When I explain that it would cost them less than $10—with their insurance company likely to cover the costs—they become even more animated.
“When can I get it? What’s holding it up? Can I be a part of a pilot? I would switch phone companies for this!
And invariably they ask, “Why are the carriers taking so long???”
I’ve talked to hundreds of people informally, and most share a similar, visceral, passionate response: “We need this now!”
When I explain that Groove is likely to launch in Australia before the U.S., jaws drop, brows furrow, and the questions shift to “What the heck is going on?”
There is a book to be written around Katasi and Groove’s five-year journey and the carrier partnerships needed to bring it to life … The Groove technology itself has not held up deployment. The real challenge? Creating a partnership between the smart entrepreneurial team who came up with the answer to a national problem and the $50 billion dollar companies that are a necessary part of the solution.
Will one or more U.S. carriers deploy Groove in 2016? Absolutely.
Do we know which ones? Not yet, but we have an inkling.
Will Australia beat us to it? Possibly.
Would hundreds of lives have been saved if Groove had been launched two years ago? Without a doubt.
So what the heck IS going on?
For four years we’ve been in the belly of the beast with the carriers as they wrestle with three competing pressures: their conscience, a desire to do something beyond just educating about the dangers of texting while driving, and the uncomfortable reality that they take bold action only when it means good business.
There are many dozens of advocates for Groove within the carriers, each pushing internally to have their companies be the first to introduce THE solution to the problem and to demonstrate that their company has the cojones to apply their network expertise to saving lives.
We are working closely with these teams to build the business cases to C-level management to show that saving lives can be a $100 million business for them: monies ultimately paid for in the inestimable currency of lives saved.
We are working directly with senior carrier execs who want to deploy Groove but need a solid business case to justify such such a bold move.
We are working with government agencies, NHTSA, FCC, Congressional staff, and the White House Office of Technology to urge the teams to encourage the companies to do the right thing—without federal mandates.
We are working with multiple insurance companies, who are making it clear that they will bring business to the carrier that is willing to step up and deploy Groove, and that they will provide discounts or give Groove away to further its adoption.
We are working with influential entertainment industry celebrities who are willing to provide high-profile sponsorships to advance the Groovement..
We are working closely with national press champions for Groove to show them the opportunity in front of us all in hopes they can nudge the Groovement forward.
All are focused on helping the carriers with the three roadblocks that have slowed Groove’s deployment:
1. The wireless network providers must be willing to let Groove interact with their networks. These interfaces are not taken lightly and need the approval of senior executive leadership. We are addressing that by bringing technology partners to the table that can create carrier-grade connections between Groove and the carrier networks in months, not years.
2. They need to manage the product liability risk that they are taking on by deploying a lifesaving technology. This requires well-designed product liability strategies with tangible costs that must be justified.
3. It needs to be good business. We are showing the wireless network providers the data to prove the extraordinary customer desire for Groove. Last year’s segment with Katie Couric made this point in spades; based on web traffic in the 24 hours after the segment aired, and despite its being stated in the segment that Groove was not yet available, Katasi could have sold more than 100,000 Groove subscriptions at $8.00 per month.
We are nearly there.
The Groovement is gaining momentum by the hour, joining together mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, grandparents, cousins, and friends: people who are as committed to ensuring Groove is made available in the U.S. in 2016 .
“Once Groove is available, families will remain intact…they will put this device in their car, and forget it, and never know that a call that might’ve come in the middle of the night that begins “I am so sorry…there has been an crash…” never happened.” – Katie Couric World 3.0 feature on Katasi’s Groove.
Let your carrier know that this is a technology that you want them to provide to help protect our families’ lives.
Join us. Be a part of the Groovement.

Katasi and Groovement Press in Australia

Australian Carriers Seek Distracted Driving Solution with Katasi

Groove by Katasi - a device which is part of the solution to prevent distracted driving

Groove by Katasi – a photo of the device which helps prevent distractions on a phone

Katasi recently received press in Australia for a pilot currently running with Australian telecommunications providers. Founder Scott Tibbitts discusses the distracted driving solution with ABC News. Scott provides a demonstration of the software that blocks distractions including texts and push notifications when a vehicle is in motion. Once the vehicle is turned off, text messages are forwarded to the phone.

Read the article and watch the video: ABC News – Police support device that stops drivers texting to learn more about Katasi’s distracted driving prevention product, Groove.