The dangers of driving while using your mobile phone are very real. While public service announcements and state laws requiring hands-free use are steps in the right direction, there really hasn’t been a means — short of just turning your device off while in the car – to put a stop to the distraction those texts, emails, and IMs cause. ZoomSafer aims to change that.
ZoomSafer uses GPS in combination with client software installed on your phone to determine when you’re moving faster than 10 mph. When driving, we activate our safe driving services to minimize distractions and keep you focused on the road.
If you are the passenger? Just turn off the application. Right now, ZoomSafer has a public beta open to any BlackBerry user who wants to try out the software.
Here’s a list of the core features included in the first phase of the beta:
* Auto speed detection – ZoomSafer detects when you start to drive and automatically activates.
* Safety Announcements – A recorded message plays when ZoomSafer activates reminding you to drive safely. ZoomSafer has pre-recorded several announcements for the Beta, but in phase 2 of the beta you’ll be able to record your own custom announcements as well as choose from several Celebrity Safety Announcements.
* Auto-Toots – These are messages sent on your behalf to friends, families, and social networks to tell them when you’ve started and stopped driving. These updates can be sent via SMS or E-mail to up to 3 contacts as well as to Facebook or Twitter.
* Keyboard Locking – Your keypad will be locked when ZoomSafer is activated except for:
- Soft-key to exit the app when you have stopped driving or if you are a passenger.
- Dialing 9-1-1
* Three Priority Contacts – You can enter up to three Priority Contacts who will be able to call and interrupt you while you are driving. Inbound calls from priority contacts will be announced via a generic audio-alert. In phase 2 of the beta you will be able to create custom ZoomRingers for each of your priority contacts.
* Inbound phone call management – While you are driving, we will suppress ringer/notification of all inbound callers who are not listed as Priority Contacts.
* Inbound email/text message management – While you are driving, we will suppress all messaging-related inbound alerts.
* Auto-Responses – While you are driving, if people try and contact you via phone or text – they will receive an auto-response notifying them that you are focused on the road and that you will respond once you’ve reached your destination safely.
ZoomSafer plans to start a second phase of the beta program in November, where they will introduce additional custom features to take advantage of hands-free operations, such as:
* ZoomSafer Voice Safety Portal – While driving with your eyes on the road and your hands on the wheel you’ll be able to use your voice to create, listen to, and reply to e-mails and text messages. You’ll also be able to use your voice to update Twitter and Facebook as well as listen to additional content services such as new, weather, and sports feeds.
* User defined inbound calling – You’ll have even more control to decide who can call you when you’re driving.
* ZoomRingers – You’ll be able to have your personal contacts record a ZoomRinger that plays when they call you. You will no longer have to look at your phone to know who is calling. If a call does not have a ZoomRinger associated with it, ZoomSafer will read the phone number to you (hopefully, by the time the second phase of the beta rolls around the functionality to read the contact name and not just the phone number will be availabl. I don’t know about you, but I’ve stopped memorizing phone numbers ).
* Priority Text Messages and Emails – When you receive a text message or e-mail from a Priority Contact, you will be told audibly about the message and asked whether you want to listen to it.
All in all this looks like great functionality and something that will add value to smartphone users. While I didn’t spot any “overrides” mentioned to keep the application from being deactivated by the user — say, for a parent who wants to keep their driving teen from turning the app off when they get behind the wheel; or a company’s BES admin who wants to add this functionality to their employee BlackBerry IT policy — this application looks like a step in the right direction.
The ability to just “turn it off” means that for the application to work — and keep you from being distracted while driving — you have to use the software. That means it is not perfect — it requires the user to choose to keep the application activated. Someone could argue that it’s easier to just choose to turn off their phone — but with this app running, you are given another option that can help emphasize safety. That’s a good thing. Let’s face it, keeping your eyes on the road is the top priority while driving.
Register at ZoomSafer if you are interested in participating in the public BlackBerry beta. Support for Windows Mobile and Android devices is planned by year’s end.
Note: While there is no confirmed timeline on release for iPhone, Windows Mobile, Palm Pre, or Symbian, those device platforms do show up in the options when you register for the beta — just keep in mind that this current public beta is for BlackBerry devices only.