New application lets drivers listen to and respond to messages without ever looking at their phone.
You know how it goes—you’re waiting for an important email, so you check your phone. Then you check again. While obsessive phone checking can be distracting in normal circumstances, it is downright dangerous if you’re driving. However, because of a new BlackBerry app from Voice on the Go, you won’t need to keep looking for important (or not-so-important) messages; you’ll simply hear them.
Voice on the Go has released DriveCarefully, an application for BlackBerry smartphones. Drivecarefully allows drivers to hear all incoming email, SMS, and PIN messages using voice technology. However, because DriveCarefully runs off the data channel on BlackBerry, when the application is switched on, all messages—text and otherwise— will be read automatically as they arrive, which is an industry first. That means users won’t have to take their eyes off the road for even an instant to see if they have messages.
Voice on the Go also currently offers a voice application that enables drivers to listen and respond to email, send SMS messages, and even update Facebook and Twitter feeds using voice commands. While Voice on the Go charges a small subscriber fee for this more involved application, DriveCarefully can be downloaded for free off the company’s Web site.
“Texting and emailing while driving has become a pervasive safety issue, and we are seeing significant media attention on shows such as Oprah and CNN,” John McLeod, CEO of Voice on the Go, said in a statement. “Drivers can now listen to their messages and drive more safely by keeping their hands on the wheel and eyes on the road.”
McLeod has a point—not only is texting/emailing while driving a safety issue, it is also banned in many states, and carries a hefty fine, especially for commercial drivers. The Voice on the Go Web site states that all kinds of people can benefit from DriveCarefully—everyone from executives on the go to busy parents. Businesses could potentially benefit because important messages would be received and responded to more quickly.
However, can working with a voice response technology be distracting as well? “Using a voice interface still demands a large cognitive load, which distracts from the primary task of driving,” says Jim Larson, an independent consultant and VoiceXML trainer, but he adds that “as long as the driver remains focused on defensive driving, then responding to email messages or sending SMS using voice would be similar to having a conversation with a passenger in a vehicle.”
Drivecarefully also works with speakerphone and any Bluetooth headset, and is currently available in English, French and Spanish. Right now, DriveCarefully is only available on BlackBerry, but the company says it should be available on Android, Nokia, Windows Mobile, and the iPhone soon.