Chevrolet is using peer pressure for good, not evil.
The US brand has developed an app that applies positive peer pressure to motorists to help keep them focused on the road.
The app — Call Me Out — encourages the friends of users to record messages to remind them to keep their hands off their phones.
The app uses a smartphone’s accelerometer, the same instrument used to measure steps, and GPS to detect when a phone is physically picked up when travelling at more than 8km/h.
Once movement is detected, the app plays a pre-recorded message from friends or family encouraging the driver to keep the hands on the wheel.
Another element to the app is a leaderboard to pit friends against each other. Users gain points the less they handle their phone in the car and are ranked on the leaderboard, playing on people’s competitive nature.
The idea came from Chevrolet hosting a “hackathon” and challenging hackers to develop a personalised solution to reduce distracted driving — the Call Me Out app was the winning concept.
The app follows on from new US-based research that found that 90 per cent of people admitted to handling their phone while driving even though they knew it was dangerous.
“Today’s vehicles offer a range of active safety features like lane keep assist and forward automatic braking that help drivers stay more aware of their surroundings,” says Chevrolet safety engineer Tricia Morrow.
“But we also know the vehicle is only one element. Chevy’s Call Me Out app gives drivers another great tool to reinforce good driving behaviours.”
Chevrolet boss Alan Batey adds: “With Call Me Out, we are extending our commitment beyond the technologies integrated into GM and Chevy vehicles and are making the app available for Android phone users who drive other vehicle makes and models in an effort to help people change their driving behaviour and make our roads safer.”
The app, compatible only with Android smartphones, is available from the Google Play Store.
The app is not the first smartphone feature to tackle driver distraction.
Apple iPhones have a Do Not Disturb While Driving feature that blocks all messages and calls when activated. It sends a generic message reply, alerting callers that the driver will get back to them at journey’s end.
The NSW Government intends to use fixed cameras to catch those using mobile phones while driving as part of the state’s Road Safety Plan 2021. The technology, now under development, would be a world first.
All states currently deter drivers from using mobile phones with stiff fines and loss of demerit points. NSW drivers are slugged $330 and four demerit points and ACT motorists cop a $528 fine and lose four points. In WA, offenders are hit with a $400 fine and three demerit points and getting caught in South Australia will cost $387, with three demerits. Victorian law breakers are fined $476 and lose four points.
In many states, provisional licence holders are unable to use mobile phones even in hands-free mode, including those with Bluetooth connection to infotainment.