Can We Address Texting While Driving? We Need To Try.

USA, Illinois, Metamora, close-up of man sitting behind steering wheel and text messaging
USA, Illinois, Metamora, close-up of man sitting behind steering wheel and text messaging

Do you text while driving? It is politically incorrect. Dangerous. Illegal. And arguably immoral. And it's become an epidemic. Nearly half of teenage and adult drivers admit to it. I admit that I've done it. But I was so terrified after watching a video of how far you travel in just a second while driving at normal speed that I stopped. But I never stop thinking about how frightening it is that so many do it.

When you are in the car and receive a text, there can be an overwhelming urge to answer it. We spend every day glued to our smartphones, so the urge to read and answer is strong. You think, it just takes a few seconds, right? And, I will be careful to glance at the road as I type. Or you may just give in to the urge. But too often that leads to accidents, injuries and even death; over 4,000 deaths tied to distracted driving were reported last year in the US alone. I suspect it's more. It's definitely more if you add those in other parts of the world...the number is surely approaching 10,000.

At Logitech, we got interested in the issue as we were creating ideas for new product categories for our business. We looked at each other and said, if we can do something worth doing here, given we are drivers and parents ourselves, it's worth trying. It took us a year and a half to create something we think is good. After a lot of thinking, designing, testing and working we created Logi ZeroTouch.

Many people and groups are trying to address distracted driving. There are campaigns to try to encourage people to stop texting, laws to prohibit it, and more. But the texting problem persists. Car manufacturers are building 'connected cars' with hands-free talk, email and texting applications. But there are still tens of millions of older 'unconnected' cars on the road. We realized there was an opportunity to turn any car, even older cars, into a connected car to help address distracted driving.

The Logi ZeroTouch is a smart mount that makes your phone 'hands free' for the functions used most often in the car, including voice texting, music, navigation and calling functions, so you can stay connected without glancing at your phone. It works, together with an app to deliver a hands-free, glance-free connected car experience. You never even have to touch your phone...hence the name 'ZeroTouch.'

Through natural language understanding, we designed the app to feel like you are talking to a person next to you in the car. A simple hand gesture (a high five) wakes up the app to initiate voice-driven text exchange. To eliminate errors, the app reads your text back before sending. It automatically informs you of incoming texts, and you decide if you'd like to listen, respond or cancel without ever looking at or touching your phone. Depending on the streaming music app you use, you can also request specific artists, songs, playlists, or genres, and give commands like "pause" and "skip." And yes, you can set up navigation to and from destinations. All of this is with just your voice, without ever touching or glancing at your smartphone.

Throughout the development process, we briefed and sought input from traffic safety experts and government regulators. We worked to ensure ZeroTouch is designed to reduce distraction while driving under the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) released guidelines. They advise that the average duration of a single glance should be no longer than two seconds. Research conducted by the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute shows that drivers using ZeroTouch were below this threshold, WAY below, at just 0.7 seconds on average. Some drivers never even looked at their phone.

We are excited about this new product from Logitech, but we know it will not please everyone. There are many who understandably feel that a phone should go into the glove compartment, be turned off, or even put in the trunk. Those make sense. But this is really hard to enforce and unlikely to dampen usage, at least with the epidemic we are facing today. People simply aren't keeping their hands off those phones.

ZeroTouch is one, affordable, way to address the problem of distracted driving since not everyone will be able to afford to buy a new connected car. It is hard not to act on this urge to respond. Logi ZeroTouch is our effort to convert the look down and text, into the look up and talk.

Read more from Bracken P. Darrell on LinkedIn.