The Drive's on to Cut In-Car Texting

In response to a survey that found a high number of people send text messages while driving, speech recognition company vlingo today called for a greater adoption of speech technologies in the mobile market.

"We thought we would add to the public dialogue on the issue," says Dave Grannan, president and CEO of vlingo. "We're not going to change human nature. If [people are] going to text in the car, it would certainly be safer to do it by voice than to have to type and manipulate by keypad."

The vlingo survey, results of which were released today, was conducted with independent research firm Common Knowledge Research Services. Of the 5,000 people polled, 55 percent polled said they used text-messaging services; 42 percent used their mobile phone for texting as much as they do or more than they do to make calls; and 28 percent said they have texted while driving.

The survey touches upon the safety and possible future public policies regarding DWT. Twenty-three states are considering making DWT illegal; and 78 percent of respondents said they believed DWT should be outlawed. If made illegal, the policy would affect younger users (ages 13-29) the most,  because that age bracket comprised the greatest text-messaging user base.

Grannan maintains that, in addition to business reasons, the report also touches on important issues related to public safety. Noting an instance in Massachusetts (where vlingo is based), in which a 13-year-old girl was killed by an 18-year-old driver who was DWT, Grannan says products like speech recognition would markedly improve driving conditions.

Vlingo's products, in addition to speech-to-text conversion in text and mobile Web applications, also allow users to have their completed text messages read back to them. This feature, Grannan says, further reduces the risks of driving while texting (DWT) because users do not need to look down to check the transcription's accuracy.

According to Grannan, the survey was originally conducted to understand the behavior of users of mobile Web services and applications, as well as DWT. He said the company publicly released the DWT statistics today because the results were so "surprising." Grannan also notes that the report could be useful in discussing consumer text-messaging habits with wireless carriers.

"At the business end of it, [the report] is really to publicize the report for our potential customers, the wireless carriers, so we can engage them in a deeper conversation," Grannan says. "We've got behavior and attitudes by operator, state, gender, and age. We can go into a Sprint or Verizon and tell them a great deal about how their individual user compares to the overall market."

The report also touched upon consumer usage of mobile Web applications. Vlingo, which recently worked with Yahoo! to develop the Yahoo! oneSearch speech-enabled mobile Web browser, identified a lack of user interest in accessing the Internet on their mobile phones. While 44 percent of respondents said the cost of mobile Internet was their main gating factor, 40 percent said it took too much time, while 30 percent noted difficulty in text entry. Grannan hopes software like his company's will be able to up that user interest.

"The people who make mobile apps...take it as self-evident that a speech user interface is the next evolutionary step to making the mobile data services more useful," he says.

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