Why you should care
If you’re going to use your apps behind the wheel, hands-free is probably the safer way.
Texting and driving. We know it’s a stupid idea, yet despite all those campaigns against it, some people still think they can handle the demands of a vehicle and their text messages at the same time. And if they’re going to continue to do it, there might as well be a product that makes it safer.
In an apparent case of “If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em,” the RayGo lets you keep your hands on the wheel and your eyes on the road — while talking, texting or even Facebooking. It’s a navigation control that mounts to your steering wheel and connects to your smartphone via a free app (Android only, for now), which automatically enables your favorite apps with voice feedback. “Drive Mode” works with Gmail, Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp, just to name a few. Simply press on the five-way control with your thumb and listen as the Siri-esque RayGo voice provides options such as “Select action,” “Next,” and “OK.” Nintendo fans will feel right at home.
If you’re in the middle of making a turn and you receive a message, the RayGo will hold it.
The RayGo didn’t start out as an anti-distraction device. Initially, Tel Aviv-based co-founders Michael Vakulenko and Boaz Zilberman devised Project RAY as a way to give vision-impaired people full access to their smartphones. After realizing that their eyes-free technology had much wider applications, the pair began to develop the RayGo. But it needed to do more than just let you use your phone while driving, it also had to be smart enough to know when you shouldn’t be using it at all. So it uses your smartphone’s GPS sensors and an embedded accelerometer to detect your speed and direction. If you’re driving quickly, the voice responses get slower and more pronounced. If you’re in the middle of making a turn and you receive a message, the RayGo will hold it. “You won’t even know it came in [until the turn is complete],” says Arielle Tayar, RayGo’s community and social media manager.
“Keep your eyes on the road, your hands upon the wheel.” — “Roadhouse Blues” by The Doors
As clever as this all sounds, consider some potential drawbacks before you buy ($55, on Indiegogo). Having anything mounted to your steering wheel — even something small — could compromise your ability to control your car by preventing you from gripping the wheel properly. It could also interfere with the safe deployment of the airbag.
The device has its critics. Dan Wagner, founder and president of Teen Driving Solutions School of North Carolina, thinks any distraction for teen drivers is one too many, and that “devices like this still require some level of cognitive focus.” Accident lawyer Jennifer Ashley, a partner with Illinois-based Salvi, Schostok & Pritchard P.C., agrees, and says it also poses a risk of causing an accident. “In my opinion, a device such as RayGo should not be legal,” she says.
For those who still want to stay connected while driving, at least it takes the phone out of your hands. RayGo starts shipping in October, with an iPhone version of the app available by the end of the year. Just remember, it might minimize distractions, but it can’t eliminate them … drive safely!