Cellcontrol sees increase in business

The head of Cellcontrol, a Baton Rouge company that offers technology to eliminate distracted driving, said he’s seen a “groundswell” of interest from individual and commercial customers.

“We’ve gone from more of a luxury item to a necessity,” said Robert Guba, CEO and co-founder of Cellcontrol, which was launched in 2009.

Guba said a number of factors has caused this to happen: Some businesses have been hit with stiff judgments after it was found their drivers were involved in traffic accidents caused by the use of a cellphone or smartphone, there are potential insurance discounts available from commercial insurers and more laws have been introduced to crack down on texting while driving.

For the upcoming legislative session, state Sen. Dale Erdey, R-Livingston, has introduced a bill that would prohibit drivers from posting on social networking sites like Twitter or Facebook when they are behind the wheel.

Cellcontrol, which has a dozen employees and is based in the Louisiana Technology Park on Florida Boulevard, allows everyone from parents to managers of vehicle fleets to set limits on the use of cellphones, smartphones, laptops and tablets while a car or truck is in operation.

The Cellcontrol device can plug into a vehicle’s on-board diagnostic port or can be used through telematic systems, such as satellite radio receivers and GPS systems.

The administrator can prohibit drivers from sending and receiving texts or getting online while the vehicle is in motion.

“We can be very granular,” Guba said.

For example, a parent could set up Cellcontrol so his child could use navigation services on his smartphone, but not access the Web otherwise.

The private company, which changed its name from
obdEdge in 2010 to the name of its main product, has experienced 400 percent sales growth in 2012. Cellcontrol would not disclose annual revenue.

The company shipped more than 25,000 devices to clients and retailers last year.

Cellcontrol is getting ready to introduce a number of new services in the next three to six months, such as opening the service up to additional devices and customizing the settings to individual drivers. This would allow a passenger in a vehicle to use a smartphone while the driver is blocked, for example, or be used in cases where young drivers and their parents share a vehicle.

Cellcontrol service costs less than $100 per vehicle for individual use, Guba said. There are a variety of pricing tiers for businesses, but the average cost is about $125 per vehicle for the first year and less than $60 per year after that. “We are working with national and regional insurers to provide our product to families with a variety of incentives,” Guba said.

A quarter of all auto accidents are caused by distracted driving, Cellcontrol said. The company said its devices are making a difference. In the past six months, one commercial client reported an 82 percent decrease in the number of rear-end accidents in one segment of its business.

“Once people start to use our devices, they find it sort of refreshing,” Guba said. “We’ve heard people say they can enjoy driving. Their phone isn’t over on the passenger seat and they’re not sweating a ding.”