By on October 8, 2010

OK, so the basic functionality of the Car & Driver/Chrysler “Txt U L8r” app is fine: receive a text message while you’re driving, and it will read it aloud and automatically reply that you are driving and cannot respond immediately. But the industry’s fundamental ambivalence towards distracted driving quickly rears its head in the form of a “paid upgrade” that allows voice-activated replies by the driver: distracted driving is not a problem to be solved, but a money-making opportunity to be exploited. As a result, the message that C&D and Chrysler send with this new app is “Texting while driving is bad, bad, bad… unless you shell out for our perfectly safe app.” Which, not to put too fine a point on it, is bullshit.

What the app should really do is simply auto-reply that you are driving anytime you receive a text message or phone call when you are in the car, and deactivate all phone functionality until the car is stopped. That would be safe… but then nobody would spend money on something that could basically be accomplished with the phones power button. It’s bad enough that the OEMs are constantly trying to justify in-car distraction with voice-activated gizmos, but as a media outlet, C&D should be taking a stand here, not enabling the industrys disingenuous line. After all, distracted driving would have been the perfect tie-in for C&Ds half-hearted “Save The Manuals” campaign. As usual though, thoughtless commercialism and industry favor-currying trumps driver education and advocacy.

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11 Comments on “C&D Teams Up With Chrysler To Sell “Distraction Mitigation” App...”

  • avatar

    Unfortunately it’s going to have to take some distracted driver crashing into a bus load of kids and having most of them die before something is done about this. The internet and driving should not go together.
    I’m quickly reaching the point where I’m thinking that once the car goes into D all driver input to non driving related functions should be unavailable. If that means your passenger won’t be able to update Facebook, then too damn bad.

  • avatar

    Ford Edge. Quite possibly the world’s most-distracting crossover.

  • avatar

    When a crash occurs, police often test for alcohol but rarely are able to test for use of distracting technology.  So, I fear nothing will ever be done about the rising epidemic.

  • avatar
    Dr Strangelove

    It’s the same old dilemma – allow it and try to impose some mitigating rules, or ban it and look on as people go on their own merry ways?

  • avatar

    Can someone explain to me how a voice-activated reply is distracting? Is it not the same as a hands free cell phone?

    • 0 avatar

      I had basically the same thought. The phone reads a message aloud to you and you respond with your voice. How is that any more dangerous than having a conversation with a passenger?

    • 0 avatar

      How is that any more dangerous than having a conversation with a passenger?

      It does seem like hands-free cell phones and this voice texting would be the same as talking to a passenger. But studies have found that it is not.

      Talking to a passenger or listening to an audio book have been found to be no more dangerous than doing nothing but driving. On the other hand, carrying on a hands-free cell phone conversation or putting a destination into a navigation system? Just as bad as driving drunk.

      Psychologists think it is because it is easy to instantly shift one’s attention from, and completely ignore, a passenger or an audio book if the need arises. Not so easy to quickly detach from a cell-phone conversation or texting or a navigation system.

      People think they can multitask, just like they think they can drive drunk. They can’t.

      I’m just as bad as anyone. I now pull over to punch in destinations on my navigation system. Even though my heart tells me it’s perfectly safe not to, my head reminds me that I have nearly rear-ended a car once or twice.

  • avatar

    “As usual though, thoughtless commercialism and industry favor-currying trumps driver education and advocacy.”

    And this, my friends, is free-market capitalism in full swing; provide the solution that generates the most profit. Or would you prefer some govt intervention?

  • avatar
    slow kills

    If I develop an iPhone app that presents a “I can’t eat that right now” display screen, I could solve obesity!
    Are we a nation of toddlers?  What level of impulse control does does it take to ignore a frivolous toy while performing a potentially fatal task?  Don’t eat the marshmallow!
    My idea is a notification tone stating “It’s not that important.  Don’t worry about it, stupid.  You’re a nobody, and this text is a total waste of time like all the others.”

  • avatar

    I guess Chrysler doesn’t have any iphones.  The dragon dictation app shoots off emails pretty easily and I’m sure there must be a voice to text app out there for free as well. C&D better not have high revenue dreams from this.

  • avatar
    Justin Berkowitz

    What the app should really do is simply auto-reply that you are driving anytime you receive a text message
    Ed, the free version has an easy-to-find setting that does exactly that…

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