With every state looking to enact (or having already passed) legislation that makes it illegal to operate a mobile phone while behind the wheel, researchers at Stevens Institute of Technology and Rutgers in New Jersey are taking it one massive step further.

A team led by Drs. Yingying Chen, Marco Gruteser, and Richard Martin have created a system that utilizes a phone's Bluetooth connection and a vehicle's speakers to detect if the driver is using their handheld while driving. The algorithm-based system measures the acoustic signals emitted from the stereo and the proximity of the phone to the Bluetooth receiver, essentially pinging both systems to determine where the phone is being operated. If the signals are coming from the driver's seat, it can shut down the phone with 95 percent accuracy, or around 80 percent if the phone is stashed in a cupholder or cubby.

Obviously, the system is designed to allow passengers to use their phones while the vehicle is in motion, but the biggest hurdles to overcome include the amount of road, wind and background noise interfering with the acoustic signals and a general lack of Bluetooth connectivity in most vehicles. Now the doctors just need an automaker to partner with...