Making a Dumb Steering Wheel Smart #CES2016

A steering wheel cover that provides feedback via the cloud to parents who want to monitor their kid’s driving habits is what made SMARTwheel™ a CES 2016 Innovation Awards Honoree. Its sensors can turn an older car from dumb to smart.

More than monitoring, this cover is about providing a way to improve people’s driving abilities. TJ Evarts, the CEO and founder of this 6-year-old company, explains that he was 14 and driving with some older friends when he saw the need for this type of offering.

The connected steering wheel is really just the start of what could be multiple extensions. Evarts hints at the gamification of the driving experience (e.g. receive points and maybe even rewards, such as MP3s for safe driving). Other potential capabilities Evarts mentions in the above interview include gesture recognition, as well as new sensors such as alcohol detection and vital sign detection.

With a list price of $199, this isn’t a casual purchase, but, in addition to piece of mind for parents, there are other players interested in this product. For instance, insurance companies could be interested in this type of device, as it detects drivers behavior, as opposed to just recording an event. Evarts also says there has been interest from fleet managers.

SMARTwheel announced on Wednesday, September 14th that they are taking reservations for a limited run of 2,000 units at a discounted price of $149. As of September 16th, 1,033 reservations have been made and its a pretty sure bet that this company, which was offered a deal from Shark Tank investors, will sell out of their first run.

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