Just last month was Distracted Driving Awareness month. In April, we saw efforts from stakeholders including the National Safety Council and All State, who conceived a traveling distracted driving simulator to get folks to listen up and understand the dangers and consequences that come with being distracted behind the wheel. Some proposed solutions are tech-based; others focus on psychology and motivation behind texting and driving. We recently came across some interesting new tech pledging to make texting and driving hands-free and allowing you to keep your eyes on the road: meet RayGo. It goes a step beyond the efforts of devices like Navdy—but still, is it safe?
RayGo is a Bluetooth remote device that clips onto your steering wheel and connects to your phone to allow you to interact with regularly used apps. The program filters apps through its own software, stripping apps down to their simplest form for you to perform simple tasks while driving. The hardware on your steering wheel contains a four directional-button toggle (and a central ‘OK’ button) with which you can select commands for RayGo to perform through the bluetooth connection. The device is one-hundred percent voice controlled, so all you have to do is listen and push.
This hands-free device is tech out of Project Ray, a company that specializes in creating easy-to-use adaptations for the visually impaired. Their company mission reads, “Vision free communication made easy with the most advanced eye free user interface, specially designed for the visually impaired and the blind.” The company makes smartphones, apps and other hardware/software to make communicating with technology simple. RayGo was actually initially intended for use on canes for folks to keep their smartphones in their pockets: protection for their tech, and protection for themselves against falls.
The Inevitable Concerns
One thing led to another, and RayGo is now being largely marketed as hardware for the busy driver to stay connected on the go. But, with distracted driving “solutions” always come concerns. No matter how safe the solution claims to be, any interaction with devices while driving at all causes some level of distraction from operating your vehicle. RayGo has made it so that eyes and hands can stay on the road—but what portion of your attention is being pulled from the road and into staying connected to your phone and toggling for a song or a text message reply?
These concerns were echoed by Jeff Larason, President of the Safe Roads Alliance. Quoted reached out for comment, and Larason responded: “This is like an person saying that they’re going to just drink beer because hard liquor gets them too drunk to drive safely,” Larason says. “They sell this as a product that can help with distracted driving, but what it does is provide a tool that allows people to do it more. This makes the issue of cognitive distractions worse. First, it gives people the false impression that they are doing something safe, when they are not. Second, users are likely to participate in distracted driving activities more because of the ease of use, and the false sense of security.”
But RayGo adheres to the “if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em” school of thought: People are going to try and stay connected to their phones no matter what. So, why not make it as safe as possible and attempt to cut down on the distraction that will continue to occur on our roads? The device takes safety measures to the next level, even pausing any activity while the driver makes turns. Sure, it makes sense. But there’s always the consideration that developing tech to make distracted driving less…distracting…only perpetuates the activity as long as innovation facilitates connected driving. There’s no easy answer to this issue as long as distracted driving continues to be an issue.
Currently, the tech is available for pre-order. The company launched a crowdfunding campaign in March, and the product will undergo final testing this summer. You can currently download the app on both GooglePlay and the iOS app store. The first batch will be delivered later this year in September for Android users, while iOS users will be able to use the hardware starting in December.
As we continue to look at the research and understand the tech associated with distracted driving to better understand the issue—what do you think about distracted driving tech solutions like RayGo? Are they helping or hurting?