A "Gold Right" Idea

Skydiving relates to car safety somehow.

Skydiving relates to car safety somehow.

Lennon wanted to jump out of an airplane for her birthday, so I volunteered to join her. Lennon's German housemate, Alan, generously offered to ride along.

The drive from Lennon and Alan's house in LA to Santa Barbara turned out to be a geek-fest, because Alan turns out to be a genius. Exhibit A: He and his friends invented a music app that he sold to Nokia, which helped put that brand back on the map in some parts of the world.

So we got to talking about ideas, and this one in particular, which I want desperately for someone to build. And if you do build it and become a billionaire, you know, send me some cash or a 7 series. Just kidding. Sort of. 

Alright, so. Texting and driving is legit. Studies show that 71 percent of people between the ages of 18 and 49 admit they text or talk on the phone while they drive (thanks, Oprah!). I'm a little surprised that I'm alive, because I used to text my high school boyfriend on my flip phone (yep, 3 taps for the letter "R", 2 for "H") while driving 75mph along a curvy 2-lane highway through the illustrious Dayton, Ohio back in the day. I am truly astounded that I never crashed, because anyone can tell you I'm a mediocre driver at best, texting or no.

The issue for me is that if I get a text from someone, even while I'm driving, I feel rude ignoring it.

I want to at least let the texter know that I'm driving, and that that's why I'll be tardy in my reply. Maybe it's the ultra-nice Midwesterner in me, but I just feel terrible leaving people hanging like that. Siri makes texting and driving easier these days, but I seriously need to stop this, and I'm guessing I'm not alone.

I need a way to text and drive that is not only hands-free, but also attention-free. Completely, 100% distraction-less.

So here's what I'd like someone (you?) to build: An app that understands when I'm in my car and driving and that will, at that time, automatically mute my text messages and send auto-replies that say, "Hey! I'm driving right now and I'll get right back to you when I arrive." And then in little text, "This was an auto-reply sent from my ImTryingToNotKillAnyoneInMyCarApp" (or whatever it's called).

Initially, I thought this would be a mobile app with a clip-on bluetooth device for the visor in your driver's seat (hardware is trendy and lucrative!); this device would turn your auto-reply app to "on" when the following two conditions are met:

  1. You're in your car (bluetooth)
  2. You're driving (your GPS indicates movement at greater than 5mph)

Cursory market research indicated:

  1. Android has similar apps, but the UX, branding and market positioning is pretty bad for all of them. They're over-complicated, ugly or require too much active engagement. This app needs to "know" when you're driving and turn on automatically. Requiring someone to actively turn the app on whenever they get in their car is not going to work for a million reasons, starting with the fact that it's a hassle.
  2. Apple will not allow a third party app to send messages on your behalf, which pretty much nips this idea right in the bud. Dang it, Apple!

Alan, however, pointed out that this function should probably be baked into your car itself, because that would give it the capability of being a. more intelligent, b. more widely adopted, and c. more likely to get around the Apple issues.

It could be more intelligent because it could "read" your actual weight on the driver's seat and verify that it's you sitting there; that way your app won't turn on if you're in the passenger's seat, for example; this would be more precise than bluetooth by a long shot (buttprint technology, anyone?). Also in this case, it could be more widely adopted as a legitimate trend in car safety that will someday become commonplace. And thirdly,  a major car manufacturer would have both the R&D budget and the clout to work around the Apple issues.

He suggested talking to Volvo about it.

So there you go. Someone go talk to Volvo about this.

x, L

PS: For some reason this event, which revolved around jumping from a plane, ended up turning into blogs about car safety on both mine and Lennon's parts. Read her famous article.

PPS: This blog is named "A Gold Right Idea" because Alan told me that this was a "gold right" idea, and I thought that was awesome.