Some drivers like to use their indicators and like to use them a lot, while others seem to have forgotten all about them. Indicators are one of the most important ways of communicating when on the road, but many choose to ignore them completely. And they can be much more than just lights that blink on and off in rhythmic fashion.
"I was so pleased when a friendly lorry driver said thanks to me on the motorway with his indicators," Matthias Frey told AMERICAN INVENTOR SPOT. He was courteous enough to let another driver back into the lane after he had overtaken dangerously - and that meant the other driver was not caught in a police traffic control soon afterwards. "He was so pleased he didn't get a ticket that he set off a complicated indicator display - it wasn't just a case of left-right-left, but the indicators were flashing like disco lights", Frey remembers.
It was this experience that got him thinking. The 39-year old hobby inventor from the Black Forest started to ask himself whether a car could be used to communicate other things as well: "How, for instance, can I say I'm sorry or how can I show if I like somebody?" He mulled over the idea for two years - and then registered an invention at the Patent Office. His idea was the Flashbox, an apparatus that sets off automatic light signals via radio control.
The hand-sized appliance is connected to the indicator system. "All you have to do is take the two Flashbox indicator outlets and attach them to the right and left indicator contacts", Frey explains. And to stop others from setting off the signals, you've also got to log the supplied hand transmitter onto the receiver. By pressing one of the buttons on the hand transmitter mounted on the car keyring, the driver transmits an indicator signal to the box. The receiver then transmits the signal on to the conventional indicator system - you can then access the signals for "Thanks" (left indicator, right indicator, left indicator, then warning lights once), "Angry", or "In love".
"Angry" is when both indicators stay on for a particularly long time. The driver can also wish "Safe journey" or "Watch out" with these signals, "without distracting the attention of the driver", according to Frey. All it takes is a press of a button. Even flirting is possible via radio signal - as long as the object of one's desires understands the indicator flashes.
"The problem is that many drivers still don't know the new signals", Frey admits. But he hopes drivers will buy the new device so they can communicate better when on the road. Since November last year car and lorry drivers have been able to buy the Flashbox for around 90 euro, and can use it on the road to flirt, say thanks, apologise - or simply to let off steam. Six different indicator signals can be accessed. Frey, who has been developing electronic control systems for years, has had 10,000 devices produced in Germany and has obtained approval from the Ministry of Transport. However, there are still only very few car drivers who have shown interest in the new "easy-to-use" indicators.
Sales to lorry drivers are a higher, the inventor says. "They use their indicators to communicate a lot more than car drivers do and they understand what all the different flashes mean". Indeed, someone in Switzerland has already shown interest in a product licensing agreement. But Frey is not thinking of selling his invention. "I want to keep extending the system. Some time in the future I'd like cars to be able to say Merry Christmas or Happy New Year".
But marketing the Flashbox is no easy task. Most drivers prefer to use their hooters to communicate when on the road.
Additional information as well as printable press photos are available for downloading at http://myflashbox.com/press/fotos.html .
TV report: “Flirting made easy“: http://youtube.com/watch?v=W5te6Ry0VRg
Trade fair film: “Language course: Indicating (International)”: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qYxa9qsq804
About Hawk Company Europe Ltd.Hawk Company Europe was founded as a "Limited" company by Matthias Frey in 2004, with its head office in Birmingham/Great Britain. The native of Baden-Württemberg designed electrotechnical control systems for companies for ten years before he began development of the Flashbox in 2004. The Flashbox is produced by the well-known company Gerhard Kurz GmbH, which has developed electronic control systems for large German companies for many years.