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Friday, August 6, 2010

Staying Connected on the Road--With No Hands

Adapted from an article By Neil Parmar, Smart Money Magazine

Texting while at the wheel
Photo by OregonDOT
These days, most people don't go anywhere without their cell phones--including behind the wheel. But with states cracking down on gabbing drivers (half have banned text nessaging while driving, and so far seven have outlawed the use of handsets, according to the Governers Highway Safety Association), a new cottage industry has sprung up, pitching drivers gadgets for communicating safely and legally. The latest tech for handling highway chatter:
  • Talk Hands-Free. Rather than fumbling around with a handset, some drivers have long been routing their calls through wireless Bluetooth devices. But a growing number of models in this $17 million market can now mount on a windshield or visor and recharge using sunlight. But while some believe Bluetooth devices are safer than handsts, others think they still pose a dangerous distraction to drivers, says Vinnie Mirchandani, president of tech advisory form Deal Architect.
  • Stop Teen Texters. Parents may cringe, but more than a third of teenagers say they have sent a text message while sitting in the driver's seat, according to the Pew Research Center. For $5 to $10 a month, concerned moms and dads can subscribe to software services, from Web sites like Getizup.com and tXtBlocker.com, that use GPS technology to block all incoming and outgoing texts, e-mails and calls once a car hits a predetermined speed, like, say 12 miles per hour. Both programs do allow drivers to make emergency calls to 911, but neither works on all handsets yet.
  • Text Out Loud. Watching the road while looking at the phone can be a tricky task, which is why some drivers have turned to free apps that translate text into spoken word via Bluetooth or car audio systems. Aha Radio, which only works on the iPhone, provides audio updates from Twitter and Facebook feeds, as well as traffic reports from nearby commuters. DriveSafe.ly works on a varity of devices, including Blackberry and Android phones, and reads text messages aloud--including shorthand like LOL. Some users, though, have complained that the app doesn't always pronounce words correctly. (The company says the program will get better over time, as the firm corrects mispronunciations.)

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