By on September 11, 2018

Chevrolet is releasing a new smartphone app, titled Call Me Out, to help remind motorists to keep their eyes on the road and put their phones in their pockets while driving. Of course, individuals will still have to check their phones to receive the messages, which seems a little counterintuitive.

While the automaker appears to target “new and experienced drivers,” there’s nothing to indicate the product wouldn’t work equally well for experienced operators. Call Me Out basically functions as a guilt delivery system, using a person’s family and friends for ammunition. Once the app has been installed, the phone’s accelerometer and GPS wait until the car surpasses 5 mph. Then the phone plays recorded, personalized messages from the driver’s loved ones, reminding drivers to keep driving and avoid distractions. 

We’d like to applaud General Motors for taking strides to reduce distracted driving, but we can’t really do that when taking the larger picture into consideration.

General Motors, like most automakers, is pushing for increasingly complex infotainment systems and vehicle connectedness. If Chevrolet truly cared about the safety of its customers, it would implement a feature like this on its own vehicles. Instead, it applied it to your personal phone and opened up more opportunities to use proprietary in-car systems. It’s almost diabolically clever, assuming that was the intent.

Besides, anyone old enough to drive will understand how to uninstall this app immediately. Putting Call Me Out on your teenager’s phone is likely to only be helpful if you have a strong rapport with them. However, if that’s the case, then you probably don’t need to go the extra mile to digitally guilt your child into being a safe driver. They’ll have already listened you and will actively attempt not to bring shame upon the family.

The software also seems as though it would be active anytime you are a passenger, meaning there’s likely some simple way to disable it. Otherwise, you’d be left reading a book anytime you hopped in a car with someone or decided to take the bus.

That doesn’t make the app a truly terrible or malicious concept, though. We could see it saving a few lives in the long run and helping build better driving habits among willing participants. If you’re a mature individual that simply has a compulsion to always look at their phone, regular reminders that those close to you don’t want you to die could prove helpful in curbing that behavior.

There is also some “gamification” to encourage users to stick with the app. The less someone handles a phone while driving, the higher the score on the leaderboard. Individuals can then brag to their families about how they’re the safest driver in the group and virtue signal publicly.

GM cited a recent Research Now survey, which claimed 84 percent of people agreed that distracted driving while handling a phone was dangerous, despite 90 percent of drivers admitting to doing so. But we think automotive infotainment can be equally distracting and we’re not alone. AAA Foundation research showed that Apple CarPlay and Android Auto were frequently less distracting for drivers than the infotainment systems found in most new vehicles. However, none devices or systems were deemed truly safe to use while in motion.

“Drivers must use common sense when it comes to technology inside the vehicle. Just because it is available, doesn’t make it safe to use,” said Jake Nelson, AAA director of traffic safety and advocacy. “Smartphone companies and automakers must collaborate to reduce the potential for distraction that technology places on drivers. The airline industry doesn’t compete on safety, and neither should automakers. Motorists deserve better.”

Interested parties can download Call Me Out from the Google Play Store free of charge. However, iPhone users will be out of luck, as GM made no mention of a version compatible with iOS.


[Image: General Motors]

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