November 10, 2008
Mr. Joseph Brennan
12 Scarlet Oak Drive
Doylestown, PA 18901
Dear Mr. Brennan:
This responds to your letter asking about the Federal motor vehicle safety standards (FMVSSs) in connection with a product you have developed called Celltinel. According to your letter, this device would disrupt cell phone signals while the vehicle engine is running. You stated that it could be used to prevent the use of cell phones during driving by school bus drivers and also by teenage drivers.
In a telephone conversation with Dorothy Nakama of my staff, you explained that you plan to market the Celltinel both as original equipment for new motor vehicles and as after-market equipment. You also explained that since it would be hard-wired into the motor vehicle, the product is not portable. You asked whether the product would interfere with any motor vehicle safety equipment on board a bus or car. The issues raised by your letter are addressed below.
By way of background information, Congress has authorized the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to issue FMVSSs applicable to new motor vehicles and items of motor vehicle equipment. NHTSA, however, does not approve or endorse motor vehicles or motor vehicle equipment. Instead, the statute establishes a "self-certification" process under which each manufacturer is responsible for certifying that its products meet all applicable safety standards.
Your device would be considered to be an item of motor vehicle equipment. None of our safety standards would apply directly to your product. However, if a device such as the Celltinel was installed as original equipment on a new vehicle, the vehicle manufacturer would be required to certify that, with the device installed, the vehicle satisfies the requirements of all applicable FMVSSs. If the device was added to a previously certified new motor vehicle prior to its first sale, the person who modified the vehicle would be an
alterer of a previously certified motor vehicle and would be required to certify that, as altered, the vehicle continued to comply with all of the safety standards affected by the alteration. In addition, manufacturers, distributors, dealers, or motor vehicle repair businesses modifying a new or used vehicle are prohibited by 49 U.S.C. 30122 from knowingly making inoperative any device or element of design installed on or in a motor vehicle or item of motor vehicle equipment in compliance with an applicable FMVSS.
Manufacturers of motor vehicle equipment are subject to the requirements of 49 U.S.C. 30118-30121 concerning the recall and remedy of products with safety related defects. In the event the manufacturer or NHTSA determined that your product contains a safety-related defect, the manufacturer would be responsible for notifying purchasers of the defective equipment and remedying the problem free of charge. See also 49 CFR Part 573, Defect and Non-Compliance Responsibility and Reports.
In your letter, you asked whether your product would interfere with any motor vehicle safety equipment on board a bus or car. We are not able to provide analysis in this area, but would encourage you to carefully analyze this issue. We also suggest that you consider the devices effect on the ability to place 911 emergency calls from vehicles, which may be necessary when the engine is running.
Finally, I note that because your product would use a weak disruptive signal to jam cell phones, laws enforced by the Federal Communications Commission may apply.
I hope this information is helpful. I am also enclosing a fact sheet entitled Information for New Manufacturers of Motor Vehicles and Motor Vehicle Equipment. If you have any further questions, please feel free to contact Ms. Dorothy Nakama at this address or by telephone at (202) 366-2992.
[signed by Stephen P. Wood for]
Anthony M. Cooke
cc: Matthew Berry, Esq.
Deputy General Counsel
Federal Communications Commission
445 12th Street, SW
Washington, DC 20554