Monday, December 7, 2009


I referred to a product named "ZoomSafer" in the comments to a previous post, and received a follow up from the founder of ZoomSafer. Google is amazing.

Here is his comment.

In response to Murphstahoe and regarding ZoomSafer....

ZoomSafer is software that actively encourages safe and legal use of mobile phones while driving.

ZoomSafer detects when you are moving faster than 10mph and automatically activates and applies safe driving policies.

It does include the ability to exit as passenger so you can use your phone if you were on a bus or in a taxi.

The software itself is fully configurable -- and you can remove the "exit as a passenger" option if you prefer.

Parents and corporations might want this. Individuals and prosumers probably don't. It's up to you.

Matt Howard

I had to refer to the NY Times Article before I could make an accurate response - I did recall that the lead in to the story was from an individual who was using ZoomSafer. Mr. Howard certainly didn't repudiate the PR for his product that does not dovetail with his comment here. And on ZoomSafer's website - the first menu button after "ABOUT" is "PERSONAL".

Individuals buying this product is sort of akin to putting your credit card in a block of ice. You haven't really changed your behavior for good, but you get some style points. When you get down to it, we'd need a pretty gnarly technical solution in order to stop cellphone usage in cars.

I watched some of the videos on the site and while I really like the features where texts and phone calls are automatically responded to with a message saying the receiver is driving their car - this should be enough. "I'm driving, will call you back when I am not driving". But the video then goes on to show how you can override the block for "close contacts", and says "Then, with your eyes on the road" as the driver looks over to the blackberry. Improved, sure, but it sends the message that we can come up with all sorts of solutions to make an inherently unsafe proposition safe.

Howard somewhat repudiates any lackadasical use of his product in the comments, I give him credit for that. And Businesses and Parents could - if they wanted - use his product as a big hammer to completely prevent cellphone use while driving by using the "exit while passenger option", or at least monitor it closely with the email alert. Turning the phones off and sending the message "I'm driving" could be one small stone in building the mindset that "I'm driving" is no different than "I'm not home" used to be in the bad old days of landlines.

Upon review I think the product has value in creating a technical solution to a non-technical problem. I'd love to see insurance companies allow a discount for strict implementation of such a product for companies - professional drivers are some of the worst abusers of cellphones in cars (take for example Taxis - brutal). It's sad that we humans cannot simply process a bad behavior and stop it, but that can be said about several things more pernicious than texting and driving (yes, many such things exist).


Matt Howard said...

Distracted driving is a very complicated behavioral issue, that's for sure.

It's also true that ZoomSafer is a technical solution to a non-technical problem, which itself, i admit, is sort of silly and "Rube Goldberg-eque".

Indeed, the mere notion of people deploying software on their mobile phone to help them be more focused and less distracted when driving is an elaborate invention that turns a simple task (turning off your phone) into an extraordinarily complicated one (policy management software that ensures you use your phone in a safe(r) and legal manner while driving).

At ZoomSafer we've invented software for mobile phones that automatically detects when you're driving and applies certain policies designed to prevent you and your friends from doing stupid things -- like texting back and forth while driving.

Telling people to "stop" is undoubtedly the simple solution.

However, based on where we are as a society, giving people tools designed to "help them stop" is sadly the right answer.

Thanks for the opportunity to post.

sam said...


the product in question is an example of a great idea which fails to deliver at the right time and the right spot.
The software usage on a cell fone leads to the cropping up of glitches like unauthorised deletion of incoming texts, pda going into the 'freeze' state.
Talking about usage compatibility and flexibility, their is no distinctive option for a 'driver' and a 'passenger'..
from installing the app to finally uninstalling it.. the in between was only about slow,tedious and hamperin.