Ina Fried

Recent Posts by Ina Fried

Don’t Read This While Driving: T-Mobile Launches Safe Driving App

If technology created the problem of texting and driving, it is only natural that we look to technology to solve the problem.

After all, we can’t just put our cellphones out of reach and just not answer the things for five freaking minutes. No, we can’t. Trust me. I’ve been to L.A.

In any case, there is a cottage industry developing for products that help those who want to stop texting and yammering on their phones, but need some help.

In the latest such move, T-Mobile plans to start offering a program for Android phones called DriveSmart Plus that allows subscribers who opt-in to have their phones automatically tell when the user is driving and put the phone into a driving mode that disables most texting and calling features. Calls can be set to go straight to voicemail, and a text message can be sent to people who are calling or texting to let them know that the recipient is driving.

Of course, all of this requires users to opt-in, so it will only help those who recognize that they have a problem and actually want to do something about it. And there are ways to override it, which is useful if there is an emergency or the cellphone user is a passenger in a moving car.

But, hey, it is a start. T-Mobile will offer DriveSmart Plus initially only for one phone–the LG Optimus T–but said it plans to expand the service soon. DriveSmart Basic, a free version of the app, is available for free on some T-Mobile phones, although that app requires users to tell the app when they are driving. DriveSmart Plus, the new premium program, will cost $4.99 per month and covers all lines on a subscriber’s account.

DriveSmart Plus is from a venture-backed start-up called Location Labs. T-Mobile is also launching another Location Labs-developed service, dubbed FamilyWhere, for tracking children or family members via their cellphones. It’s apparently useful for monitoring an elderly family member or keeping tabs on school-age kids (or perhaps tracking that cheating spouse, if they are foolish enough to opt-in to the service).

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There was a worry before I started this that I was going to burn every bridge I had. But I realize now that there are some bridges that are worth burning.

— Valleywag editor Sam Biddle