Wednesday, August 26, 2009, AM | Leave Comment
Texting is wildly popular. The number of monthly text messages has increased more than tenfold in the past three years to 110.4 billion in December 2008, up from 9.8 billion in December 2005, more than a ten-fold, according to the wireless industry trade organization CTIA.
Texting while driving is unsafe. Not only are a driver’s eyes off the road, one or both hands are off the wheel as well. Texting has been implicated in the crash of a Los Angeles train in September, as well as a trolley collision in Boston in May.
Until recently, most cellphone safety measures were focused on keeping drivers’ eyes on the road – such as voice dialing and hands-free headsets. Now, a wide array of technology companies are racing to bring texting-safety apps to market.
Many of the apps will simply block texts from being sent or received while the owner is driving. They generally require a smart phone with Global Positioning System technology.
Some companies are helping
- Safe Driving Systems Corp. is building a system that takes over a cellphone’s display when its owner starts driving. Calls and text messages are received but can’t be accessed, though users can place emergency calls.
- Another start-up, Vancouver-based Aegis Mobility Inc., is developing DriveAssist, a software program that uses a phone’s GPS to detect when it is moving at driving speed and intercept incoming calls and texts. It also blocks outgoing messages, though the owner can override it to make emergency calls.
- Some software makers are pushing services that let drivers “speak” their texts. Montreal-based Mobivox Inc. offers its voice-to-text technology for 29 cents a message, as part of calling plans and through partners such as wireless carriers.
In a Nutshell
As the U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood recently said he supports a ban on texting while driving but such laws would be difficult to enforce.
While these technologies may appeal to parents who want to limit their children texting in the car, it isn’t clear how many users will voluntarily install software that temporarily disables their texting.
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