- Chicago aldermen discussed the idea of supplying police with innovative tech, dubbed "textalyzers," which would scan a phone and determine if a person had been using it before or during an accident, according to the Chicago Tribune and others.
- Textalyzer technology is not yet available on the market, but Cellebrite, a mobile data extraction company developing the product, said it is being finalized at a currently unknown price point.
- So far no cities have signed up as early adopters to use the technology, but several reportedly are examining the possibility.
To say it was jumping the gun for aldermen to discuss using textalyzers in Chicago is an understatement. The technology is not yet available and it isn't even at the stage where developers can give pricing details. Still, there are benefits to preemptively discussing topics that could have an impact on a city to ensure preparedness when the issues become a reality.
Textalyzer technology has the potential to be a strong deterrent for drivers who are tempted to use a mobile device while driving. With distracted driving crashes steadily on the rise, cities across the country are looking for safety solutions.
This future tech adoption is the latest measure Chicago leaders have discussed in an attempt to cut down on the number of injuries and deaths caused by distracted phone use. Late last year two aldermen proposed an ordinance that would fine pedestrians up to $500 for crossing the street while texting or talking on the phone. Some consider the measure draconian, but others claim that something must be done to curb pedestrian deaths, which are at the highest total in more than 20 years. No solid conclusions about reasoning have been offered, but researchers hint at the use of phones by both pedestrians and drivers as a likely cause.
While textalyzers are a good solution in concept, there are significant related legal issues that still need to be worked out. For example, since a cell phone is personal property, the argument is that officers should need a warrant to seize or scan them. Jurisdictions across the United States also have different privacy laws related to electronic devices that must be complied with. The technology has other potential problems as well, including how a textalyzer could indicate a driver violation after allowing someone else in their car to use their phone.
No decision was made at the Chicago meeting, as it was just intended to be a high-profile way to discuss a topic that is still far on the horizon. But aldermen consider it a future option in a space that doesn't seem to have a lot of viable ideas, with one alderman reportedly noting that cell phone companies and service providers haven't responded to requests for technology that automatically shuts off a person's phone when they're in a moving vehicle.